50 Years of Robotic Planetary Exploration: Nancy Grace Roman (Retired Chief of NASA's Astronomy and Relativity Programs at NASA Headquarters)
25 Oct 2012
What do you think are the most significant events that have occurred in the past fifty years of robotic planetary exploration? Why?
I have found the Cassini-Huygens mission to be the most interesting.
This mission has given us a detailed picture of a terrestrial analog (Saturn's moon Titan) under quite different conditions and provided exciting observations of the moon Enceladus.
In your field of work, what are some examples of the great achievements and discoveries in planetary science and robotic exploration throughout the past 50 years?
I think that the greatest achievements of the past 50 years in planetary robotic exploration are the discoveries of a wide variety of conditions on the moons in the solar system, particularly that three of the Galilean moons have water layers and the high degree of volcanic activity on the fourth.
The Enceladus fountains are related to these.
The tiny moons of Mars are a contrast to these large moons. Although they have not been studied carefully, they are probably similar to the asteroids -- such as Vesta -- that have been investigated in more detail.