Sean Solomon to Receive National Medal of Science

Categories: Mercury News Brief

Sean Solomon, PI for NASA's MESSENGER mission, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science. Credit: NASA

Sean Solomon, PI for NASA’s MESSENGER mission, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science. Credit: NASA

Sean Solomon, former principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute team at the Carnegie Institution, has been selected to receive the National Medal of Science.

Solomon is now the Director of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and serves as principal investigator for NASA’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) mission. MESSENGER is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and is currently completing a second extended mission at the Solar System’s inner-most planet. Additional NASA missions in which Solomon has been involved include the Magellan mission to Venus, the Mars Global Surveyor mission, and the GRAIL mission to the Moon.


As a scientist, Sean Solomon has studied Mercury, Venus and Mars. Now he heads Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, whose researchers study planet Earth, from its deepest ocean to its highest peak. Credit: Columbia University (YouTube)
 

NASA’S MESSENGER spacecraft became the first mission to orbit Mercury in March of 2011. Mercury is not habitable, but studying the inner-most planet in our solar system can help astrobiologists understand how small, rocky bodies form and evolve.

MESSENGER has shown that ice and frozen volatiles are found in permanently shadowed craters at Mercury’s north pole. Just days ago, NASA released MESSENGER’s first optical images of the north pole.

An interactive timeline of the MESSENGER mission is available at: http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/the_mission/MESSENGERTimeline/TimeLine_content.html

MESSENGER celebrated a decade in space last August. Credit: NASA

MESSENGER celebrated a decade in space last August. Credit: NASA

The National Medal of Science was created in 1959 and is the highest scientific honor in the United States. Recipients are selected by the President of the United States from a pool of nominees based on their outstanding contributions to science and engineering.

More information is available in this press release from the MESSENGER site.