October 31, 2011

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A Planetary Loss


a characteristic image of Ron with a smile, from Facebook

Last week one of the nicest and most prolific lunar scientists that you've never heard of died. Ron Greeley was a professor of planetary science at Arizona State University and spent his entire long career as a leader in research and education. I first communicated with Ron in 1970 when we were both studying terrestrial lava tubes as models for sinuous rilles. Ron's work pretty well convinced NASA of the origin of Hadley Rille, the target for Apollo 15. He continued with studies of terrestrial analogs of small volcanic cones and other features seen on spacecraft views of the Moon and later Mars. As spacecraft moved across the solar system Ron was was always a principal investigator or participant, studying Mars, Mercury, Venus, the satellites of the outer planets and even Earth. He became a NASA and National Academy advisor, setting priorities for space exploration. He wrote 17 books, hundreds of scientific papers and more than a 1000 abstracts. The students and colleagues that he took under his wings have prospered and become leaders themselves. He loved to take students out in the field to conduct geologic field work and to be within nature. He was the sort of person that lunar craters should be named for. But you have probably not heard of him because amateur astronomy often seems to be a generation or so behind the frontier, where Ron always worked. So books talk of Kuiper and Shoemaker, and the current generation of planetary explorers is often unknown to the wider world who only know athletes, musicians and movie stars.

Chuck Wood

Related Links
Arizona State memorial
Paul Spudis's article
Ron's Memorial Facebook page
Planetary Society interview

Yesterday's LPOD: The Far East

Tomorrow's LPOD: 11-1-11


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