Co-Investigator, Analogs, Mineralogical Interpretation
NASA Johnson Space Center
Dr. Richard V. Morris is a senior planetary scientist, director of the Mars Soil Genesis Project, and manager of the Spectroscopy and Magnetics Laboratory. He has studied lunar and Martian analogue samples since 1973 as a Principal Investigator in NASA Cosmochemistry, Planetary Geology, and Mars Data Analysis Programs. He has also been a Principal Investigator in the Planetary Instrument Definition and Development Program (backscatter Mossbauer spectrometer) and a Participating Scientist for the Mars Polar Lander Mission. Currently, Dr. Morris is a Co-Investigator in the Hubble Space Telescope General Observer Program and a Co-Investigator in the ESA Mars Express Mission (Mossbauer instrument), the NASA Mars Exploration Rover 2003 Mission (Athena instrument payload), and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 2005 Mission (CRISM instrument).
Dr. Morris' analytical expertise includes reflectance spectroscopy, Mossbauer spectroscopy, rock magnetism, and electron magnetic resonance. The common element in his laboratory research and exploration activities is the mineralogical state and spatial distribution of iron on planetary surfaces and the implication thereof for the extent and style of planetary weathering processes. His studies of the space weathering of lunar samples, for which nanophase metallic iron is the alteration product of primary ferrous silicates and oxides, resulted in the de facto standard index for lunar soil maturity (Is/FeO).
Dick has accumulated an unprecedented collection of Martian analogue samples (over 2000). These samples are curated as part of the Mars Soil Genesis Project, which is a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional, sample and remote sensing effort to understand the mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and the extent and style weathering processes that chemically, mineralogically, and physically altered it through time, with a particular emphasis on aqueous and hydrothermal processes. Dick's major research focus in the Project is the chemical and mineralogical composition of iron in analogue samples (particularly weathered, cruddy materials) whose terrestrial geologic context is known and the application of the analytical and contextual information to Mars as known through remote-sensing and in situ measurements. A key part of this work is that the dataset obtained for analogue samples in the laboratory is inclusive of the current and approved-mission observational dataset for Mars (visible, near-IR, and thermal emission spectroscopy, magnetic properties, and major element analysis).
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