Who We Are
Eric J. Finnegan, MESSENGER Mission Systems Engineer
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
||As Mission Systems Engineer, Eric Finnegan is responsible for all technical aspects 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 led a number of conceptual design efforts for space and near-space systems for both national security and civil space programs. Prior to joining APL in 2004, 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.
Contact Information: 240.228.1712
Sean Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator
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.
Prior to MESSENGER, 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 Mercury's 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 Melt 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 led the land section of this project.
Solomon balances his position as director of 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: 240.478.8850
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