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Phil Christensen
Principal Investigator
"Mini-TES" instrument on the Mars Exploration Rovers
Science lead for the Terra Meridiani/Hematite landing site
(& Principal Investigator, THEMIS on Mars Odyssey, and TES, the Thermal Emission Spectrometer, on Mars Global Surveyor)
Arizona State University, Phoenix

Who I Am
I am a professor at Arizona State University where I work as a planetary geologist. I teach courses on the solar system, the geology of Mars, and the use of satellite images and data to study planetary surfaces (also known as remote sensing). My main research interests center on understanding the early history, evolution and current conditions on the Martian surface.

My Career Journey
I have been fascinated by the planet Mars since I was a kid. I once talked my Mom into letting me stay home from school in the sixth grade to watch the first images of Mars coming back from the Mariner 4 spacecraft that were being shown live on TV. Growing up in Los Angeles I got an opportunity to go to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and see firsthand one of the Surveyor spacecraft that eventually landed on the Moon. I followed the Apollo missions to the Moon in high school and continued to watch the early spacecraft missions to Mars. As a college student at UCLA, it never occurred to me that I could actually get a job studying Mars but, as a senior, I got a job in a research lab cutting and filing Mariner 9 images of Mars. Working on this project suddenly made me aware that it might be possible to study Mars as a career, and I eventually enrolled in graduate school at UCLA. In my graduate work I used data from the Viking orbiters and landers to study Martian climate change, the sedimentary cycle (erosion, transportation and deposition), aeolian (wind) processes, and volcanic processes.

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