Tim Schofield
Planetary Scientist, Mars Pathfinder
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

What I Do

I am a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. At the moment I am the leader of the Mars Pathfinder Atmospheric Structure Investigation / Meteorology (ASI/MET) experiment science team. This team is studying the weather data returned by the ASI/MET experiment during the 83 days it was working on the atmosphere of Mars. Most of what I do at JPL involves working with teams of engineers to design and build scientific instruments to measure the atmospheres of other planets from spacecraft, but I also like to work on the data that come back from these instruments when I get a chance.

My Career Journey

I am English, and I started work in planetary science in England. I studied physics at college and went on to study atmospheric physics afterwards. I had always been interested in meteorology and astronomy and this led me toward a research project that involved building an instrument to study the atmosphere of the planet Venus from the orbiting spacecraft Pioneer Venus. During this project, I travelled to California and JPL several times and got to know a lot of planetary scientists in America. After working on the data from Pioneer Venus for several years in England, I got an offer to come and work at JPL to build the same sort of instrument to look at the atmosphere of Mars. These instruments are called infrared sounders, and measure the heat coming from atmospheres to make maps of temperature and the different gases in the atmosphere. At JPL I spent many years designing and building an instrument that finally flew on the ill-fated Mars Observer spacecraft that blew up only three days before it got to Mars. One good result of that experience is that I joined the Mars Pathfinder project and became involved in building the completely different types of instruments needed for a weather station on the surface of Mars.

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