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Dr. R. Aileen Yingst

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in Brunswick, ME
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Areas of Expertise
Targets: Ceres, Earth, Mars, Moon, Vesta
Disciplines/Techniques: Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Geology, Geomorphology, Mapping, Remote sensing, Spectroscopy, Volcanism
Missions: Dawn, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Polar Lander, MER, MSL
Mission Roles: Calibration/Test planning, Deputy Instrument PI, Instrument Co-Investigator, Instrument operations, Mission operations, Mission science team, Requirements generation and flow down, Science operations
Instruments: Cameras

Research Interests

Dr. Aileen Yingst's research interests fall into three primary categories: (1) rock and grain morphology and what they reveal about geologic processes; (2) photogeologic and spectroscopic mapping as a tool for revealing the underlying geologic processes and placing those processes into a global, contextual framework; and (3) spacecraft mission planning and operations. Her work on photo-documenting, cataloging, and analyzing thousands of terrestrial clast characteristics at the handlens scale is being applied to the study of rock and particle morphology on Mars from rover images. Her work also includes geologic mapping, a tool used to decipher the geologic processes occurring on planetary surfaces. Her approach combines photogeologic mapping techniques and multispectral data analysis to first characterize and map surface features, and then to compare the morphology of these features with analogous terrestrial examples to better understand geologic context, processes, and stratigraphy. Current mapping projects include a global geologic map of the asteroid Ceres led by Dr. Scott Mest (as part of the Dawn at Ceres mission) and a USGS Special Investigation geologic map of the lunar Planck Quadrangle 29 (in review). Prior projects include a global geologic map of the asteroid Vesta (as Participating Scientist on the Dawn at Vesta mission) and the lunar Marius Quadrangle under PI Dr. Tracy Gregg. Dr. Yingst is also actively conducting field work designing and testing rover operations strategies to optimize science return. This work, known as the GeoHeuristic Operational Strategies Tests (GHOST), has been conducted in multiple martian and lunar analogs, including glacial plains in Alaska, volcanic fields in New Mexico, and various sedimentary environments in Utah.

Professional History

Dr. Yingst received her PhD in Geological Sciences in 1998 from Brown University. She subsequently served on the faculty of University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, and was the Director of the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium. She joined the permanent science staff of PSI in 2008. Dr. Yingst served the planetary community as Secretary Treasurer, Vice-Chair and Chair of the Planetary Division of the Geological Society of America (2002-2006) and has served on numerous NASA proposal review panels. She is currently the Deputy Principal Investigator on the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) instrument on Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), as well as a Co-Investigator on the combined Mastcam, MAHLI, and MARDI (Mars Descent Imager) science team. She was a Participating Scientist on MER, where she supported several tactical positions, including SOWG Chair, Microscopic Imager (MI)-Payload Uplink Lead, Long-Term Planner and SOWG Documentarian. She also served as a Participating Scientist on the Dawn at Vesta mission and is currently an Associate member of the Dawn science team at Ceres. Her MSL work focuses on leading the tactical operation of the MAHLI camera and analyzing the resulting grain-scale data for clues to the sedimentary history of Gale crater. On MER, she supports analysis of the grain-scale images returned from the MI. In preparation for future mission operation needs, Dr. Yingst is funded to explore and evaluate strategies to maximize scientific return from lunar semi-autonomous robotic surface activities, specifically through the refinement of exploration science methodology (GHOST field work).

Honors and Awards

Dr. Yingst has received several group awards for her work on various missions, including the NASA Group Achievement Award for the MER 3rd and 4th, and 5th Extended Missions (2008, 2014), the International Space Ops Award for Outstanding Achievement as part of the MER Operations Team (2010) and the AIAA Haley Space Flight Award as part of the MER Development and Operations Team (2012). She has also received the NASA Group Achievement Award as part of the Mars Science Laboratory MMM Camera Team (2013), and the Prime Mission Science and Operations Team (2015). As part of the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team, she received the National Space Club Distinguished Science Award (2015). She received the NASA Distinguished Service Award as part of the Dawn Science Team (2014), and the NASA Group Achievement Award as part of the Desert RATS Team (2011). In 2015, Dr. Yingst was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. She was nominated to full membership in the Sigma Xi Honor Society in 1998. She received a NASA Space Grant Fellowship as a graduate student in 1996, and a General Electric Fellowship in 1991.

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