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MESSENGER Co-Investigator Receives NASA's Distinguished Service Medal
MESSENGER Co-Investigator Receives NASA's Distinguished Service Medal
11 May 2010
(Source: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

Jack Trombka, a MESSENGER Co-Investigator and member of the Science Team's Geochemistry Group, was recently awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, NASA's highest honor. The award is granted only to individuals whose distinguished accomplishments contributed substantially to the NASA mission.

Trombka's contributions to the exploration of space stretch back more than four decades. Currently an Emeritus Senior Fellow in Goddard's Astrochemistry Laboratory, he began his career in the space sciences at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked on the Ranger gamma-ray spectrometer and more generally studied the applications of X-ray, gamma-ray, and neutron spectrometry to planetary remote and in-situ geochemical analysis.

Trombka has been an instrument principal investigator or co-investigator on many lunar and planetary science missions, including the U.S. Apollo, Viking, Solar Maximum, Mars Observer, WIND, NEAR, Mars Odyssey, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter missions and the Russian Luna, Mars, and Phobos missions.

As a member of MESSENGER's Science Team, he played a key role in the development of the X-Ray Spectrometer and Gamma-Ray and Neutron Spectrometer instruments and will participate in the analysis of their measurements.

"Jack has been deeply involved in MESSENGER since the first development of the mission concept 14 years ago," states mission Principal Investigator Sean Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "The entire MESSENGER team is delighted that NASA has recognized Jack's exceptionally broad contributions to the field of planetary chemistry, and we will be counting on that breadth of experience as we start to unravel the chemical composition of Mercury's crustal materials."

Featured Image: Hokusai Paints a Wave of Rays

The featured image this week is of a striking impact crater, first viewed at close range during MESSENGER's second flyby of Mercury. The crater has drawn scientific attention because of its extensive system of rays, which extend over a thousand kilometers across the planet. The International Astronomical Union recently approved the name Hokusai for this spectacular rayed crater. Hokusai is a prominent feature seen in Earth-based radar images of Mercury, and the name Hokusai was suggested by radar astronomer John K. Harmon. The crater's name honors the Japanese painter, draftsman, and printmaker, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Hokusai is perhaps best known for the painting "Mount Fuji Seen Below a Wave at Kanagawa."

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a NASA-sponsored scientific investigation of the planet Mercury and the first space mission designed to orbit the planet closest to the Sun. The MESSENGER spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004, and after flybys of Earth, Venus, and Mercury will start a yearlong study of its target planet in March 2011. Dr. Sean C. Solomon, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, leads the mission as Principal Investigator. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory built and operates the MESSENGER spacecraft and manages this Discovery-class mission for NASA.

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Last Updated: 13 May 2010