Who We Are
Marilyn Lindstrom, MESSENGER Program Scientist
NASA Headquarters, Washington
MESSENGER's Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters is Dr. Marilyn Lindstrom. She is the liaison between the MESSENGER principal investigator and the science team and NASA program management on science matters. She is responsible for overseeing science planning, implementation, analysis and data archiving, but also for facilitating MESSENGER science. Dr. Lindstrom is also program scientist for the Mars Fundamental Research program, Astromaterials Curation and Planetary EPO. She previously managed Planetary Instruments and Mars Data Analysis Programs. Prior to coming to Headquarters she was curator of Antarctic meteorites at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, and a research scientist studying rocks from the Earth, Moon and Mars. She is particularly interested in comparative planetology of the terrestrial planets and is delighted to have a role in studying Mercury, the least known of these bodies.
Contact Information: 202.358.1254
Sean Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator
The Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington
As Principal Investigator for the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) mission, Sean Solomon heads a multi-institutional consortium of scientists and engineers who operate the small, efficient spacecraft, which launched in 2004 and will reach its target orbit in 2011.
To date, the only craft sent to Mercury was Mariner 10 in the 1970s, and it imaged less than half of the planet. With a suite of seven miniaturized instruments, MESSENGER will address questions that are key to understanding terrestrial planet evolution. Solomon's particular interests are to learn more about Mercury's bulk composition and what that tells us about planet formation in general; to investigate its volcanic, tectonic, and internal evolution; and to understand how the planet's magnetic field originated and determine the characteristics of Mercury's liquid outer core. Mariner 10 discovered that Mercury has a weak magnetic field, which may arise from an Earth-like electromagnetic dynamo in the planet's outer core. MESSENGER will investigate this question as well as the nature of the planet's thin atmosphere and the composition of the permanently shadowed polar deposits.
Solomon has also been a team member on a variety of other projects, including the Magellan mission to Venus, the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) investigation on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, and the Plume-Lithosphere Undersea Mantle Experiment (PLUME) on Earth. The Magellan mission produced global radar image and altimetric maps of the surface of Venus. Data from MOLA have been used to construct precise topographical maps to understand Martian geology, geophysics, and atmospheric circulation. PLUME is a combined land and ocean-bottom seismic experiment to image the mantle beneath the Hawaiian hotspot. Solomon is leading the land section of this project.
Solomon balances his position as director of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism with research in planetary geology and geophysics, seismology, marine geophysics, and geodynamics. Prior to accepting his current position, he was a professor of geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for more than 20 years. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a former president of the American Geophysical Union.
Contact Information: 202.478.8850
Eric Finnegan, MESSENGER Mission Systems Engineer
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD
Eric Finnegan is a member of the Senior Professional Staff at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physical Laboratory, joining the lab in 2004. He is presently the Mission Systems Engineer, responsible for all technical aspects of the of the NASA MESSENGER mission to Mercury. He has previously served as the lead systems engineer overseeing a combined industry and government team in the development of spacecraft bus standards in support of the Office of Force Transportation's multi-phase Operational Responsive Space Program. He has also lead a number of conceptual design efforts for space and near-space systems for both National Security and Civil space programs. Prior to joining the lab, he worked as a civil servant at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Space Flight Center and was the Missions Systems Engineer and Project Technologist for the Space Technology 5 Project, part of the New Millennium Program. Previous employment experience included lead engineer for the Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) and Image Navigation and Registration (INR) subsystems in support of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) Program. He has also supported a variety of programs including DSCS, SORCE, Cassini, SP-100, Re-entry Vehicles, CONTOUR, MESSENGER, ICESAT, IMAGE, ACT, VCL. He has a BS, with honors, in Aerospace Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and an MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating from college, he participated in the General Electric Edison Engineering Program.
Contact Information: 240.228.1712
Faith Vilas, MESSENGER Participating Scientist and Director
MMT Observatory at Mt. Hopkins, Ariz.
Dr. Faith Vilas is one of the participating scientists on the MESSENGER team, investigating the effects of space weathering, or the micrometeoroid impacts and solar wind sputtering, on Mercury's surface mineralogy. She is the director of the MMT Observatory, a facility operated jointly by the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Arizona, located at Mt. Hopkins, Arizona. Since 1973, she has studied Mercury as part of her planetary astronomy research, emphasizing ground-based telescopic observations of its reflectance spectrum. She is the lead editor of the Space Science Series book Mercury, and led the effort to develop mission objectives to Mercury as part of NASA's Terrestrial Planets Science Working Group. Prior to joining the MMT staff, Dr. Vilas worked as a civil servant at NASA's Johnson Space Center in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Systems Office, as the chief of the planetary astronomy group. She was a science team member of the Japanese Space Agency's Hayabusa mission to near-Earth asteroid 25143 Hayabusa. In addition, she designed space-based observations of spacecraft orbital debris, serving as a member of the Space Surveillance PI Team for the Midcourse Space Experiment satellite. She has served at NASA Headquarters as the Discovery Program Scientist, and managed the NEAR Data Analysis and Dawn Programs. She is a former Chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences, American Astronomical Society.
Contact Information: 520.621.1558
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