NASA Decadal Survey
Philip R. Christensen is a Regents’ Professor of Geological Sciences and the Ed and Helen Korrick Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. He completed his PhD in Geophysics and Space Physics at UCLA in 1981. His research interests focus on the composition, physical properties and processes, and morphology of planetary surfaces, with an emphasis on Mars and the Earth.
A major element of his research has been the design and development of spacecraft infrared remote sensing instruments. Christensen was the Principal Investigator for the Thermal Emission System (TES) instrument on Mars Global Surveyor and a Co-Investigator on the Mars Exploration Rover missions, responsible for building and operating the Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) instruments.
He is currently the Principal Investigator for the 2001 Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instrument and the Instrument Scientist for the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx sample-return mission to asteroid Bennu.
Instruments under development by him include an Mars atmosphere monitoring spectrometer for Al-Amir (Hope), a Mars mission by the United Arab Emirates; the Lucy Thermal Emission Spectrometer (L’TES), a thermal-sensing instrument for the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids; and E-THEMIS, a temperature-sensing camera for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa.
His research uses infrared spectroscopy, radiometry, laboratory spectroscopic measurements, field observations, and numerical modeling, and has taken him to field sites in the western U.S., Hawaii, Mexico, and South America.
Since the mid-1990’s he has pursued the use of spacecraft observations to study environmental and urban development problems on Earth.
Christensen was awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 2003 for his pioneering scientific observations of Mars in the infrared, and was elected as a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2004. He was awarded the NASA Public Service Medal in 2005, the Geological Society of America’s G.K. Gilbert Award in 2008, and ASU’s Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Award in 2011. In 2018, he received the American Geophysical Union’s Fred Whipple Award for outstanding contributions in the field of planetary science.
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