The Trailblazing Scientific Career Of Maria Zuber

"In planetary science, you can ask really big questions," said Maria Zuber, Vice President of Research at MIT, in an interview with Smithsonian Magazine. Maria has been tackling big questions her entire career. She was the first woman to run a NASA spacecraft mission, the first woman to lead a science department at MIT, and one of the first two women to receive NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal. Her passion is planetary science, which includes the study of planets, moons, and planetary systems.

One of her biggest accomplishments was commanding NASA's 2011 GRAIL mission, which successfully launched two satellites into the moon's orbit. GRAIL is an acronym for NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory Mission, which had the objective of creating an accurate map of the moon's gravitational field. In the beginning stages of the mission, Zuber was one of the first to suggest lasers be used as mapping instruments. Her efforts ultimately led to data accurate to the nearest few microns — about the diameter of a red blood cell. Zuber's satellites, which collected data through early August 2016, have allowed scientists to not only better understand the surface of Earth's moon but to explore the unknown environment below the moon's crust. Ultimately, this data will shed light on the history of the moon and, more significantly, the space environment that existed in the early epochs of our solar system; the same environment that many suggest gave rise to live on Earth. Zuber's work extends even further to the planet Mars whose surface images continue to suggest a past environment that may have included water and even life. Hear Zuber give a lecture about her work in the video below.

Maria Zuber Speaking At Zeitgeist Americas 2012

Hear Zuber present some of her research.

Should We Go To Mars Or Back To The Moon?

Plenty of Zuber's research deals with both the moon and Mars.

Written by Curiosity Staff November 19, 2016

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