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Meet: Greg Wilson

Planetary Geologist
Arizona State University & NASA Ames Research Center


My Journals

Who I Am

Hello, my name is Greg Wilson and I am a planetary geologist. I am part of the Planetary Geology Group at Arizona State University, but work at NASA Ames Research Center's Planetary Aeolian Laboratory in Mountain View, California. I am primarily responsible for conducting geologic research in the Mars and Venus wind tunnels, but have also done a lot of work in support of the Mars Pathfinder mission.

What I Do

I have "gone all the way" in school, earning my B.S. degree in Soils from California State University, Fresno, and my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Soil Physics from Texas Tech University. Unlike most people working in the planetary geology field, I have no formal training in it. During graduate school I spent most of my time studying aeolian processes. Aeolian is defined as pertaining to the wind; especially said of rocks, soils and deposits (such as loess, dune sand and some volcanic tuffs) whose constituents were transported (blown) and laid down by atmospheric currents, or of landforms produced or eroded by the wind, or of sedimentary structures (such as ripple marks) made by the wind, or of geologic processes (such as erosion and deposition) accomplished by the wind.

It just so happens that aeolian processes are not limited to Earth, but are active on Mars and Venus, and possibly on one of Saturn's moons, Titan. You see, any planetary body that has a solid surface and a dynamic atmosphere has the potential for aeolian processes. And while these planets have different atmospheres, surface materials and gravitational accelerations, the physics governing aeolian processes are essentially the same (at least we hope!). To prove these theories and to try to understand the geologic history of these planetary bodies, we have built special wind tunnels that simulate the atmospheres and surface interactions of Mars and Venus. You can find more about these wind tunnels by visiting the Planetary Aeolian Laboratory.

Because these are the only wind tunnels in the world capable of simulating different planetary environments, scientists and engineers wanting to test atmospheric instruments under these conditions bring them here. Last year we conducted three main tasks in support of the Mars Pathfinder mission. We conducted all the testing and calibration of the Atmospheric Structure Instrument/Meteorological Mast wind sensor, the Imager for Mars Pathfinder windsock experiment, and simulations of internal flows of the Mars Pathfinder lander during its decent through the Martian atmosphere.

Personal

On the personal side, I am 30 years old, I am the youngest in my family, and I am left handed. I like to go surfing and play basketball, as well as sit in front of the TV and vegetate. My favorite TV shows are "Star Trek the Next Generation," "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Friends." I like all kinds of music and food. I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world, and I especially enjoyed spending two years working in Lesotho; a small country inside of South Africa.


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