Adopt a Scientist
Planetary geologist Dr. John Marshall.
Credit: SETI Institute

This story inaugurates a new monthly feature that will highlight the research undertaken by SETI Institute scientists, as well as provide an opportunity for you to join an expedition or participate directly in science or science education.

Adopt a SETI Institute scientist and become part of the adventure! Each scientist offers a compelling journey of discovery. When you adopt a scientist, you help lead the way toward answering profound questions about our place in the universe. Whichever scientist you choose, you'll take part in making history!

The SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe and the Center for SETI Research are home to more than 90 scientists. Their work covers a broad spectrum of research dedicated to understanding the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe. In an effort to ensure this vital research continues to prosper, we invite you to make a direct contribution to support research.

Public support is crucial as current trends in government funding are making it increasingly difficult for astrobiologists to depend on that source of support. By participating in Adopt a SETI Institute Scientist, you will help provide an office, laboratory space, supplies and equipment, as well as valuable research time in the field. You can form a one-on-one relationship and participate in the process of groundbreaking science with any number of the SETI Institute's Principal Investigators (PIs).

Visit the Institute's Adopt-a-Scientist website to learn more about the program.

This month, SPACE.com features planetary geologist Dr. John Marshall, whose work was featured in SETI Thursday's "A Bumpy Road to Mars."

Marshall specializes in the study of particulate matter, dust and sand-size materials that comprise nebulae clouds, volcanic eruptions, dust storms, sand dunes, beach and river sediments, and the regoliths of the terrestrial planets, rocky moons and asteroids. Heavily involved in the flight world, Marshall has developed instruments for three Mars missions, for the Space Shuttle and Space Station, as well as a coffee-can size X-ray analyzer for use on the moon or Mars.

To study particle transport, Marshall operated the Mars Wind Tunnel and the Venus Wind Tunnel at NASA Ames and developed the Ames Venus Simulator. He is currently part of a consortium of investigators developing a new wind tunnel to simulate aeolian action on Titan. To study the electrostatics of particles, John has flown his experiments on the KC 135 (zero-gravity) aircraft and twice on Space Shuttle Columbia, as well as dived into dust devils in the Mojave Desert and conducted a number of laboratory simulations of Mars. Currently he is developing a Lunar Laboratory for NASA Ames and has successfully duplicated electrostatic levitation of dust as seen on the moon.

If you'd like to sponsor John Marshall, you will be able to join the science team on one of two field trips — one to the Mohave and Nevada deserts to see its deployment as part of a simulated Mars landing that involves analyzing rocks in stunning scenic setting (this trip is jointly sponsored by NASA/APL). The other "field" trip would be to the Egyptology museum at San Francisco State University where sarcophagi and other artifacts will be analyzed by MICA (Mineral Identification and Composition Analyzer), a miniaturized tool for in-situ x-ray diffraction (XRD), x-ray fluorescence (XRF), and optical analyses on unprepared rocks accessed by a rover on Mars. A next-generation MICA could be a standard feature in museums, mines, factories, laboratories and forensic applications, proving substantial return on any start-up investment.

For more information on how to adopt this scientist, please call us toll free at 1-866-616-3617 and ask for Karen Randall.