Peter Smith
Camera Designer and Spectroscopist
Lunar and Planetary Lab, University of Arizona

I left Hawaii in 1975 and started graduate school at the Optical Sciences Center at the University of Arizona, back in my home town of Tucson. My first job, chosen for me at random, was to process the images just obtained by the Pioneer mission to Jupiter and the Galilean moons. I still work with planetary images today, 22 years later.

With a Master's degree in optics I started at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona in 1978. My first project was to calibrate a solar flux radiometer soon to be flown to the surface of Venus as part of the Pioneer Venus mission. With the success of the instrument and the first-hand experience learned with Dr. Martin Tomasko, the principal investigator for that mission, I was hooked on space. The Pioneer missions to Saturn and Titan were followed with long studies to try to understand the atmospheric properties of these objects. The results of these studies explained the cloud layering on Venus and the outer planets and taught us about the dust and ice particles the clouds are made of.

Later I helped Dr. Tomasko develop a descent imager to be parachuted to the surface of Titan as part of the Cassini mission. Starting in 1989 we received funding to start construction. The magnitude of the effort was immense, requiring the hiring and managing of Martin Marietta Astronautics in Denver and collaborations with the Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy in Germany and the Paris Observatory. Part of the glamour of astronomy is the travel to different places and the interesting people that one meets.

In response to a NASA announcement to fund a camera for a new mission to Mars I designed a simple camera system using many of the parts of the descent imager. This camera became known as the IMP.

Back to BIOgraphies Menu Peter Smith's Biography    1     2