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College of Arts and Sciences

Hayes, Lunine to chair Planetary Science 10-year survey panels

By: Kate Blackwood
Cornell Chronicle
October 7, 2020

Cornell astronomers Alex Hayes and Jonathan Lunine have been named chairs for two of the six panels for the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032.

Hayes, associate professor of astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, will chair the Panel on Ocean Worlds and Dwarf Planet Systems. Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and chair of the Department of Astronomy (A&S), will chair the Panel on Giant Planet Systems. Both are fellows of the Carl Sagan Institute.

The four other panels in the Planetary survey are: Small Solar System Bodies; Mars; Venus; and Mercury and the Moon.

Prepared by the National Academies every 10 years and sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation, decadal surveys in various areas of space science are the mechanisms by which NASA and other federal agencies develop comprehensive science and mission strategies to guide future research and flight projects.

Alexander Hayes
Alexander Hayes

In addition to the survey on Planetary Science, other surveys focus on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Earth Science and Applications from Space, Solar and Space Physics, and Biological and Physical Sciences. Cornell Astronomy is represented on the Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey with professors Martha Haynes and Gordon Stacey, Ph.D. ’85, and assistant professor Nikole Lewis serving as panel members.

“While the survey results are not binding on NASA, they carry considerable influence on how the space agency sets priorities for new missions and on Congress in considering whether to fund such missions,” Lunine said.

Steve Squyres, professor emeritus and former principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Project, was the overall chair of the last Planetary Decadal Survey, which set a research strategy for 2013-2022.

“Cornell Astronomy providing two panel chairs to the current planetary decadal, as well as having hosted the chair of the previous planetary decadal is, in my opinion, a reflection of the department’s history and strength in the field of planetary exploration,” said Hayes, who’s also director of Cornell’s Spacecraft Planetary Image Facility.

Jonathan Lunine
Jonathan Lunine

As panel chair, Hayes will lead a group of experts in determining what mission concepts related to ocean worlds and dwarf planet systems need to be studied for potential inclusion in the survey’s overall recommendations to NASA. Lunine will lead a panel focused on research into the solar system’s giant planets and their rings, moons and magnetic space environments.

Both also will help to organize and write the science-themed chapters of the survey’s final report.

“The panels examine the most pressing questions about their particular part of the solar system,” Lunine said, “and what kinds of future missions are most important for answering these questions raised by the results of previous space missions.”

Read the story in the Cornell Chronicle.