Planetary Science Research Discoveries

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Remembering Ronald Greeley


PSRD lost an exceptional mentor and friend when Dr. Ronald Greeley of Arizona State University died on October 27, 2011.

Working in planetary science for nearly 45 years, Ron's research focused on understanding planetary surface processes and geological histories. He combined remote sensing data with laboratory experiments and geological field studies of terrestrial analogs to understand the fundamentals of volcanism, aeolian processes, and more.

Dr. Ronald Greeley. Photo courtesy of School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University.

I was very fortunate to be one of his graduate students at ASU in the early 1980s running experiments in the wind tunnel on sand saltation and wind streak formation on Mars before focusing on radar studies of plains volcanism in Idaho in preparation for the Magellan mission to Venus. The research group was fantastic, the field work and course work were challenging, and Ron was a fair, tough boss. It's exciting when your thesis advisor is involved in nearly every planetary mission in the Solar System since Apollo—and I mean even into 2011, with his current research and leadership roles on NASA review panels, steering committees, and advisory councils. I can't begin to tell you how far-reaching his work and good counsel have been in benefiting the people he taught and advancing planetary science; it would take a book. The news of his unexpected passing hit hard. Working now as I do with Jeff Taylor at the University of Hawai‘i with remote sensing data, or lunar samples in the laboratory, or when we write articles for PSRD website, or when I'm speaking to students and teachers, I use my careful attention to detail and communication skills Ron insisted be part of my education as a scientist. He was an exceptional mentor. To repay and honor him means keeping a clear head, celebrating and sharing scientific discoveries, and helping to inspire the next generation of planetary scientists. Thank you Ron Greeley.

  — Linda Viglienzone Martel

Note: An impact crater on Mars in the southern highlands has been named Greeley Crater in honor of Ron Greeley. See the April 16, 2015 News Item from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University.

Photo courtest of SESE/ASU

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OCT 2011