Dr. John A. Grant, III joined the Smithsonian in the fall of 2000 as a geologist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum. He is a member of the Science Teams for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, the InSight Mars lander, and the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He was also a member of the science team for the now ended mission of the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. On Curiosity he is a Long-Term Planner focused on achieving strategic goals for the mission, whereas on InSight he is a member of the Geology and the Instrument Site Selection (or ISSWG) groups. As a co-investigator on the High-Resolution Camera (HiRISE) he is the Science Theme Lead for Landscape Evolution and Future Landing Sites. On the Spirit and Opportunity rovers he served as a Science Operations Working Group Chair responsible for leading day-to-day science planning of the rovers.
Dr. Grant also served as NASA-appointed co-chair for the science community process for selecting the landing sites for the Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance Rovers. He has been interested in Mars ever since reading Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles as a child.
Dr. Grant attended the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh and received his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in geology in 1982 and went on to earn a master’s and doctorate in geology at the University of Rhode Island (1986) and Brown University (1990), respectively. His dissertation focused on the degradation of meteorite impact craters on Earth and Mars, and he remains interested in understanding processes responsible for shaping planetary landscapes. He is the recipient of an honorary PhD from the Trustees of the State University of NY and is the 2017 recipient of the G. K. Gilbert award given by the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America for outstanding contributions to the solution of fundamental problems in planetary geology. He is also a fellow in the Geological Society of America.
Geologic mapping is an integral part of exploration and understanding a planetary landscape, because it shows the relationships between geologic units and helps delineate the history of a surface.