D. C. Golden
Principal Scientist
Johnson Space Center

Who I Am

I hold a job as a principal scientist. I am a soil chemist and a mineralogist by training. One of my projects is to study martian soils. As you know, there are no real martian soil samples available on Earth. But from the data obtained from Viking missions we know a great deal about martian soils. Using these data and also from remotely sensed spectral data of the martian surface, we are able to identify terrestrial soils which are similar to martian soils. We also can mix soil constituents of known properties to obtain a composite soil with properties similar to those of martian soils. (By the way, none of the martian meteorites qualify as soil materials as they came from somewhat deeper parts of the surface.) These simulated materials are the basic stuff that I work with until one day real martian samples are available to us for research.

My Career Journey

I never dreamed of working on a space-related subject at first. My training in soil science is basically directed toward agriculture, a down-to-Earth subject. However, I learned that NASA was developing a regenerative life-support system to recycle the wastes produced by crew members in long-duration space missions. I applied for a position as a National Research Council fellow to come and work on this project. After coming to NASA Ames as a research fellow, I realized that my knowledge of terrestrial soils and minerals can be put to good use in martian soil studies. That is how I got involved in martian soils.

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