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Joel S. Levine - Research Scientist
November 9, 2009

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Name: Joel S. Levine
Job Title: Senior research scientist, Science Mission Directorate, and principal investigator and chief scientist of the proposed ARES Mars Airplane Mission
Education: Bachelor's degree in physics, Brooklyn College, City University of New York; master's in meteorology, New York University; master's in aeronomy and planetary atmospheres, University of Michigan; and doctorate in atmospheric science, University of Michigan
NASA Center: Langley Research Center
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Hobby: Photography, foreign travel
 

Tell us about the project that you are working on now.

What attracted you to a career in robotics?

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

What prepared you for your job?

What advice would you give to students interested in a career in robotics?


Tell us about the project that you are working on now.

(I am working on) the development of a robotic, rocket-powered airplane, ARES, to fly through the atmosphere of Mars about a mile above the surface and search for evidence of life on Mars by looking for trace gases of biogenic origin. (ARES stands for Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Surveyor of Mars.) ARES will fly over impact and volcanic craters, over mountains and valleys, all previously inaccessible to investigation by landers or rovers on the surface of Mars. The proposed ARES Mars Airplane Mission is described on our website at http://marsairplane.larc.nasa.gov.

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What attracted you to a career in robotics?

The search for life outside Earth and the possibility that instrumented robotic vehicles, like robotic airplanes, can go where no human has yet gone and search for life!

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What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

My first job at NASA Langley was to develop the models of the upper atmosphere of Mars used in the Viking Project. My model was the first to include the presence of the gases argon and helium as constituents of the atmosphere of Mars.

From 1998 to 2001, at the request of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., I formed and led a team of NASA scientists to solve the mystery of why tiny white spots were forming in the hermetically sealed encasements containing the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Using noninvasive techniques that were originally developed to measure trace gases in Earth's atmosphere, we solved the problem. We measured very high concentrations of water vapor in the hermetically sealed encasements. The high concentrations of water vapor chemically reacted with the glass encasements, causing the leaching out of alkaline material from the glass, resulting in the formation of the mysterious white spots. The situation was corrected in 2001, when personnel at the National Archives and Records Administration removed the documents from the original encasements, put them in brand-new encasements and put them back on display at the National Archives. This was a unique opportunity to apply NASA-developed technology to solve a non-aerospace problem of great national interest and concern - the preservation of the founding documents of the United States of America!

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What prepared you for your job?

Curiosity and interest about the nature and composition of the atmospheres of our neighboring worlds and the search for life on these worlds!

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What advice would you give to students interested in a career in robotics?

Study hard, get good grades and follow your dreams!

 
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Joel S. Levine - Research Scientist
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Page Last Updated: March 26th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator