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Peter Thomas
Research Scientist
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Who I Am

I am a research scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I study pictures of other planets and satellites sent back by spacecraft; my particular interests in Mars are how the wind shapes the surface by moving sand and dust, sometimes in global storms, and how the polar caps have affected Mars' geology and climate.

I am a member of the science teams that plan, and will analyze images sent back by the Mars Orbiter Camera on Mars Global Surveyor, as well as the Orbiter and Lander cameras on the '98 Mars Surveyor Orbiter and Lander. I also work on other planetary missions such as the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Mission, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, and the Cassini mission to be launched to Saturn.

My actual work varies a great deal: making detailed measurements from images displayed on computer monitors, writing programs to analyze the measurements, planning what images to take, presenting results in talks and papers, teaching the occasional class, and going to meetings of the various spacecraft teams. The most fun is watching the new images that come in...they are always different from what we expect, and it is always a thrill to see new landscapes on the other side of the solar system, even if we can't figure them out! Seeing spacecraft launched is also one of the fun parts, although often nerve-wracking.

One of the other fun parts of this work is that space missions are carried out by many people all over the country (and world) who meet and work together for a common goal. This involves learning how to get along with and understand a great variety of people. It also means traveling to places that have major planetary research centers such as California, Arizona, Hawaii, Colorado, Texas, which are all usually warmer than Ithaca, New York!

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