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Announcing the Co-Chairs for the Decadal Survey on Planetary Science and Astrobiology

Status Report From: National Academy of Sciences
Posted: Monday, May 18, 2020

We are excited to announce the co-chairs for the newly launched Decadal Survey on Planetary Science and Astrobiology.  Please welcome Robin Canup from the Southwest Research Institute and Philip Christensen from Arizona State University.  Their biographies are listed below.

ROBIN M. CANUP (NAS) is assistant vice president of the Planetary Sciences Directorate at Southwest Research Institute.  Dr. Canup is a theoretician that utilizes numerical simulations and analytical methods to study the formation and early evolution of planets and their moons. She has modeled many aspects of the formation of the Moon, including hydrodynamical simulations of lunar-forming impacts, the accumulation of the Moon and its initial composition and orbital evolution, and how bombardment may have affected Earth-Moon isotopic compositions. Her models for the origin of the large satellites of the gas giant planets have emphasized the potential early loss of satellites due to gas-driven orbital decay, and how this process may both select for the similar observed ratios between the current satellite system masses and their host planets and provide a potential mechanism to produce icy rings at Saturn. Dr. Canup has also developed models for an impact origin of the satellite systems of Pluto and Mars.  She was the recipient of the 2003 Urey Prize of the Division of Planetary Sciences and the 2004 Macelwane Medal of the American Geophysical Union, and was elected to NAS in 2012 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.  She earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in astrophysics and planetary sciences from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She served on the Academies’ 2015 and 2018 J. Lawrence Smith Medal Selection Committees, and the 2014 and 2017-2019 NAS Class I Membership Committees

PHILIP R. CHRISTENSEN is a Regents Professor and the Ed and Helen Korrick Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.  His research interests focus on the composition, processes, and physical properties of Mars, Earth, asteroids, Europa, and other planetary surfaces.  Dr. Christensen uses spectroscopy, radiometry, field observations, and numerical modeling to study the geology and history of planets and moons.  A major facet of his research is the development of spacecraft instruments, and he has built six science instruments that have flown on NASA’s Mars Observer, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Exploration Rovers, and OSIRIS-REx missions.  He is currently developing infrared instruments for the UAE’s Hope Mars mission and NASA’s Europa Clipper and Lucy Discovery missions. Over the past 20 years he has developed an extensive K-12 education and outreach program to bring the excitement of science and exploration into the classroom.  Dr. Christensen is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America and received the AGU’s Whipple Award in 2018, the GSA’s G.K. Gilbert Award in 2008, NASA’s Public Service Medal in 2005, and NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 2003.   He received his Ph.D. in geophysics and space physics from the University of California, Los Angeles.  Dr. Christensen has previously served as a member of the NRC Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration, served as chair of the Mars Panel of the NRC Planetary Science Decadal Survey in 2010-2011 and was Co-Chair of the NRC’s Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science from 2012-2015.

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