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MESSENGER News Conference Panelist Biographies

Brett W. Denevi, Staff Scientist
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.

Brett Denevi

Brett W. Denevi is a Planetary Scientist in the Space Department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. Her research focuses on the composition, origin, and evolution of planetary and asteroidal surfaces, including topics such as regolith development, chemical and mineralogic composition of planetary materials as derived from ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared spectroscopy, and geologic mapping of planetary surfaces. She has extensive experience in sensor calibration and image processing. She is currently working on the calibration and analysis of images from MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), and she is a Co-Investigator on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera and a Participating Scientist on the Dawn mission to Vesta. She received her Ph.D. in geology and geophysics from the University of Hawaii.

Contact Information: 240.228.2139
e-mail: brett.denevi@jhuapl.edu




Larry R. Nittler, Staff Scientist, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism
Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C.

Larry R. Nittler

Larry R. Nittler studies the origin and evolution of the solar system, both through planetary remote sensing and through laboratory analysis of extraterrestrial materials. He received a B.A. in Physics from Cornell University in 1991 and a Ph.D. in Physics from Washington University in 1996. After a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, he took a position as staff scientist at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. There, he worked on the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission to the asteroid 433 Eros. He returned to Carnegie as a Staff Scientist in 2001. He has worked on comet samples returned by NASA’s Stardust mission and solar wind samples returned by the Genesis mission. A member of the MESSENGER science team, he is actively working on determining the chemical composition of the planet Mercury. He received the Alfred O. Nier Prize of the Meteoritical Society in 2001 and was named a Fellow of the same society in 2010. Asteroid 5992 Nittler is named in his honor.

Contact Information: 240.478.8460
E-mail: lnittler@ciw.edu




Sean C. Solomon, MESSENGER Principal Investigator
Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, D.C.

Sean Solomon 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 has been orbiting Mercury since March 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 is addressing 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 is investigating 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 was 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
E-mail: scs@dtm.ciw.edu



Ralph L. McNutt, Jr. , MESSENGER Project Scientist
The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.

Ralph L. McNutt Ralph L. McNutt, Jr., a Physicist and the Science and Analysis Branch Scientist for Space Science in the Space Department of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, has been involved in a broad range of planetary space physics research. He is Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator on NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury. He is also Co-Investigator on NASA’s Solar Probe Plus mission to the solar corona, Co-Investigator on the New Horizons mission to Pluto, Co-Investigator for the Voyager Interstellar Mission, and member of the Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer Team on the Cassini Orbiter spacecraft. He is the recipient of 11 NASA Group Achievement Awards.

McNutt has served on a variety of National Research Council committees, including as Co-Chair of the Committee on Radioisotope Power Supplies (2008–2009), Member of the Steering Committee, Solar System Exploration Decadal Survey (2009–2011), and Member of the Innovations Working Group for the Heliophysics Decadal Survey (2011). He is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics and the American Geophysical Union and an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He received his B.S. in Physics (summa cum laude) at Texas A&M University in 1975 and his Ph.D. in Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980, where he served on the faculty from 1982 to 1990.

Contact Information: 240.228.5435
E-mail: Ralph.Mcnutt@jhuapl.edu




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