Kavli Institute For Theoretical Physics
The KITP Public Lecture Series

The Search for Habitable Environments in the Solar System

sponsored by Friends of KITP

All space faring nations devote a portion of their resources to exploring the solar system. NASA has a forty-year history of robotic missions reaching into deep space for a better understanding of our origins, the evolution of our planet, and our destiny. For the past decade, NASA has placed considerable emphasis on the search for life beyond Earth. Missions to the rocky terrestrial planets and the moons of the gas giants seek answers to the question: Are other worlds in the solar system habitable by simple organisms? By framing its search objective in this way, NASA motivates investigations of the fundamentals of what makes a planet an abode for life, and what ingredients are required for the origin and evolution of life. In this lecture, we focus on the strategies and results of the search thus far. We will discuss recent scientific missions to Mars, Europa, and Titan.

About the Speaker Dr. Dan McCleese is the Chief Scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at JPL. In this role he has worked with NASA and the international science community to establish the current science strategy for exploring Mars. Dan's personal science interests are focused on acquiring and interpreting climatological data sets for the terrestrial planets. Specific research topics include development of the first climatology of cloud height for Earth, upper atmospheric cloud and thermal structure of Venus, and, at present, the modern climate of Mars. He is the Principal Investigator for the Mars Climate Sounder on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to be launched in 2005. In this investigation, measurements of atmospheric water vapor, temperature and condensates, and the energy balance of the polar caps are emphasized. Dr. McCleese was a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University receiving a D.Phil. degree in Atmospheric Physics.