Arvidson Receives 2007 Whipple Award

Raymond E. Arvidson received the 2007 Whipple Award at the 2007 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the field of planetary science.


arvidson_raymondThe Planetary Sciences section presents with great pleasure the 2007 AGU Whipple Award to Ray Arvidson. Ray has participated in all Mars missions since Viking, and in Magellan. His vigorous and productive career has resulted in nearly 200 peer-reviewed publications on Earth, Mars, Venus, and the Moon, many of which are considered pivotal to our understanding of planetary processes. His topics include remote sensing of planetary surfaces and surface processes; he provided the first quantitative study of aeolian processes on Mars. Ray’s contributions are numerous and broadly applied. He played a major role in developing robotic techniques for the in situ exploration of Mars, in particular for the hugely successful MER mission. An AGU Fellow, Ray’s work has been recognized by numerous awards in the past. In addition to his scientific work, Ray has provided essential services to the community. His work in pioneering and standardizing planetary data archiving has been particularly recognized as outstanding. He has served on more than 30 NASA committees and was the secretary and the president of the AGU Planetary Sciences section. In addition, he has been an associate editor of JGR and an editor of Geology. He served on the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences and has been chair of its Committee on Data Management and Computation. Enthusiastic support for his nomination came from all over the world.

Ray is a true leader in the planetary sciences community.

Tilman Spohn, Institut für Planetenforschung, Berlin


Receiving the 2007 Whipple Award and presenting the Whipple Lecture mean a great deal to me. First, I knew Fred Whipple because we were both principal investigators in the early NASA Planetary Geology Program. We both attended a number of the early meetings of researchers supported by the program. Fred was a gracious individual who was deeply interested in all aspects of solar system science, in addition to his fundamental interest in planetary astronomy and the characteristics and dynamics of comets. Thus, receiving an honor named after Fred Whipple is especially rewarding. Second, the award comes from the Planetology section, and that means from the community of researchers who know my work well and can comment on it with a deep understanding of how it affects our understanding of the evolution of planetary surfaces. This is particularly important to me.

My career has focused on understanding the nature and dynamics of planetary surfaces, including participating in the Magellan Radar Mapping Mission to Venus and helping understand surface dynamics on this interesting planet. The mountains of Venus were found to be covered with metal frost or snow, precipitated from the atmosphere on these relatively cold peaks. The plains have distal ejecta deposits that were carried leeward of the impact sites by regional winds, forming elongate features with interesting dielectric and roughness properties. These two examples illustrate the richness of the Magellan data, which are still being examined over a decade after the mission ended. I have also been fortunate to have worked on all Mars missions since Viking, with the exception of Pathfinder. In fact, Phoenix, scheduled to land on the northern plains of Mars on 25 May 2008, will be my fifth landed mission (Viking Landers 1 and 2; Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity). The existing landed data show that Mars maintains evidence of past lakes (dirty evaporates observed by Opportunity) and of extensive alteration by hydrothermal systems (sulfate and high silica deposits found by Spirit). Connecting to orbital observations using Mars Express OMEGA and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter CRISM data shows many other examples where water has modified crustal rocks. This includes formation of phyllosilicates on the old Noachian cratered terrains and deposition of layered sulfates in Terra Meridiani and Valles Marineris. These relatively recent landed and orbital results bode well for Mars as a planet that was habitable and may have had or even today harbors life.

I have also participated in the development and implementation of NASA’s Planetary Data System (PDS), from the development of the concept of distributed scientific data management units defined under the NRC’s Space Science Board in the 1980s, to directing the Geosciences Node of the PDS today ( Archiving efforts have been particularly rewarding in that the PDS now works directly with data producers (investigators recovering or producing data) to ensure that products and documentation are produced, validated, put into the PDS, and made available to current and future communities of researchers. Part of my selection as the 2007 Whipple Award winner was to recognize these efforts. This is especially gratifying since much of the work is “behind the scenes” and does not lead to recognition through scientific discoveries and publications.

Raymond E. Arvidson, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.