Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from 1976 to 1982, Bruce Murray was a geologist whose vision was never earthbound. He earned his PhD from MIT and served two years in the U.S. Air Force before joining the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1960. Caltech manages JPL for NASA, and soon Murray was working on JPL’s Mariner missions to Mars. During his tenure as director of JPL, the Viking spacecraft landed on Mars and the Voyagers began exploring the outer solar system. He also oversaw Earth orbital missions, including Seasat, the Solar Mesosphere Explorer, and Shuttle Imaging Radar-A.
The news that “Vulcan” topped the poll results taken by the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California as a possible name for one of the two tiny moons newly discovered to be orbiting Pluto has gotten quite a bit of press this week. In 2012, Mark Showalter of SETI, working with scientists on the New Horizons mission sending a probe to Pluto, found a tiny fifth moon orbiting the icy world.
A particularly bright fireball was observed earlier today over a wide area in Russia. Of even greater significance was the very strong sonic boom associated with the passage of the meteor through Earth’s atmosphere.
In July, I joined a team from Johnson Space Center and elsewhere in investigating the geology of Apollo Valley with rover-deployed scientific instruments. Apollo Valley is a former 1960s Apollo-era astronaut training site at 3,505 meters (11,500 feet) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The project was funded by NASA's Moon and Mars Analog Mission Activities Program, which funds projects that simulate scientific, robotic, and human aspects of exploring the Moon and Mars, with the goal of designing the most effective, efficient, and well-integrated future missions.