Dr. Bruce Campbell

Senior Scientist

  • Center for Earth and Planetary Studies

Bruce Campbell

Dr. Bruce Campbell received a B.S. in Geophysics in 1986 from Texas A&M University, and a Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics in 1991 from the University of Hawaii. Since 1992 he has been with the Smithsonian’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum, and was department chair from 2015 to 2019. His research focuses on the surface and subsurface geology of the Moon, Mars, Venus, and the icy moons of the outer planets, resulting in more than 100 scientific publications.

Much of this work uses radar observations with orbiting probes and the giant Arecibo and Green Bank radio telescopes. Radar signals can probe from a few meters to several kilometers below the surface, revealing the events that formed the features we now see. For Venus, radar can penetrate the thick clouds to map the volcanic landscape and watch for changes from possible eruptions. To support future human exploration, radar illuminates areas near the lunar poles to search for ice, reveals layering in the polar caps of Mars, and can identify ground ice on Mars that could supply water. Dr. Campbell has led several proposal teams for an orbiting radar mission to locate that ice on Mars, co-chaired a 2015 study group for the next Mars orbiter mission, and has been on teams to develop new mission concepts for Venus.

He is a science team member for radar sounder instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, and the Europa Clipper missions. As part of the National Air and Space Museum, he works to bring the excitement and discoveries of planetary exploration to museum visitors. This includes new gallery sections on Venus, Mars exploration and the three generations of rovers, the exploration of Pluto and the distant Kuiper Belt, and the radar image of the Moon that serves as a backdrop for the museum’s Lunar Module.

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