"I am truly honored to receive the Lindsay award and it was gratifying to be given the opportunity to present some of the recent advances in Mars science at the Lindsay lecture," said Dr. Mahaffy, who is the Principal Investigator on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite on NASA's Curiosity Rover currently operating on the surface of Mars.
The surface of Mars is currently inhospitable to life as we know it, but there is evidence that the Red Planet once had a climate that could have supported life billions of years ago. For example, features resembling dry riverbeds and minerals that only form in the presence of liquid water have been discovered on the Martian surface. The Curiosity rover with its suite of instruments including SAM was sent to Mars to discover more about the ancient habitable Martian environment by examining clues in the chemistry of rocks and the atmosphere.
"Both the engineering and technical work on developing this instrument, the day to day operations on Mars, and the scientific analysis of results from SAM and Curiosity required the contribution of many talented people, so this award reflects their creativity and dedication," adds Dr. Mahaffy, who is also Principal Investigator on the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer on NASA's MAVEN Mars orbiter mission that recently arrived at Mars and Principal Investigator on the Neutral Mass Spectrometer on NASA's LADEE mission that recently completed a successful mission in lunar orbit exploring the tenuous lunar atmosphere (exosphere).
Dr. Mahaffy currently serves as Chief of the Planetary Environments Laboratory in the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA Goddard. He has participated for many years at Goddard in the study of planetary atmospheres and surface environments and in the development of space qualified instrumentation.
"Paul is extremely deserving of this prestigious award," said Dr. Lori Glaze, Deputy Director, Solar System Exploration Division at Goddard. "Paul does an amazing job of leading the outstanding group of scientists and engineers here at Goddard who built the mass spectrometers that have done amazing science at Mars (Curiosity Rover) and the moon (LADEE) over the last year. And, there are more great discoveries to come with MAVEN!"
The Lindsay award has been presented annually since 1966 as a memorial to Dr. John C. Lindsay, who joined the Goddard Space Flight Center on December 28, 1958. He served as Associate Chief of the Space Sciences Division and headed the Goddard solar physics program. He pioneered in the exploration of the Sun by both satellite and rocket-borne experiments. He was awarded NASA's Medal of Exceptional Scientific Achievement for "the achievement of a major scientific advance in the study of the Sun and for significant technological progress in highly precise satellite attitude control." In addition to his scientific contributions, Dr. Lindsay conceived and directed the Orbiting Solar Observatory Project and was manager of several Explorer and Pioneer missions.
The John C. Lindsay Memorial Award was established to recognize Goddard scientists who exemplify the same level of scientific achievement as Dr. Lindsay.
For a list of previous Lindsay award recipients, refer to: http://scicolloq.gsfc.nasa.gov/Lindsay_Awards.html
For more about the Curiosity rover, refer to: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/
For more about the SAM instrument suite, refer to: http://ssed.gsfc.nasa.gov/sam/samiam.html