To my surprise, I find myself in a position to influence the lives and careers of smart young people such as students who want to explore Mars. I arrived at this position because I was skilled (or at least diligent) at processing and analyzing digital images, alone with a computer, not because I was good with people. But this is where I now find myself, so my personal goal for the future is to learn how to make the most of this opportunity.
Most Mars enthusiasts dream about human exploration and colonization of Mars. I dream that the robotic exploration of Mars and elsewhere will advance the scientific knowledge and public conscience needed to properly care for Earth.
In 2001 my HiRISE proposal was selected for the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and this experiment is crucial to finding the best locations to land and explore Mars. The Mars Exploration Program is focused on finding evidence for past or present life on Mars. Actual discovery of Martian life would be of enormous significance to basic science, but nobody knows the chances of success. I've struggled to decide what I think about this emphasis on finding life on Mars. Our home planet has major environmental problems that are not yet receiving the attention needed to enable much of Earth’s people to live quality lives. Why spend billions of dollars to explore Mars instead of addressing critical problems on this planet? But if we cancelled Mars exploration, the funds would not necessarily go towards conservation. Our priorities need to change. Maybe the search for life on Mars will help make that change, by making us better appreciate the rarity of abundant and complex life.
Enjoying the outdoors, as in this photo with my son Ian in Iceland.