Meet: Greg Wilson
Arizona State University & NASA Ames Research Center
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.
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.