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Leadership

Vilas

Faith Vilas
Project Scientist

Faith has over 30 years’ experience in planetary sciences and astronomy, completing her tenure as the Director of the Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory in Arizona before transitioning to become the Atsa Suborbital Observatory Project Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.  She spent 20 years working for NASA conducting ground-based and space-based observational research in planetary sciences and of man-made debris in low Earth and geosynchronous orbits.  She served as Discovery Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters in 2001-2002.  Faith completed a Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy at Wellesley College in 1973, and a Master of Science in Earth and Planetary Sciences at MIT in 1975.  Before receiving her Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences from the University of Arizona in 1984, Faith worked for Lockheed Electronics analyzing orbital X-ray fluorescence data of the Moon from Apollos 15 and 16; and for the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile as senior research assistant. She is one of the discoverers of the rings of Neptune, and she designed the coronagraph used to produce the first-ever image of a circumstellar disk around another star (Beta Pictoris) in 1984.  Faith has been part of the 1996 DOD Midcourse Space Experiment Space Surveillance P.I. Team, the Hayabusa (MUSES C) joint Japanese-U.S. science team for the 2005 mission to asteroid 25143 Itokawa, and NASA’s Mercury MESSENGER mission.  She is currently a Participating Scientist on NASA's Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter LAMP team, and on the Joint Science Team for the Japanese Hayabusa2 mission to asteroid 162173 Ryugu. She served as Chief Scientist of the NASA Planetary Data System from 2001 - 2015.  In 1989, she was honored by the International Astronomical Union with the designation of Minor Planet 3507 Vilas.

Luke

Luke Sollitt
Deputy Project Scientist

Luke is a Senior Research Scientist at PSI and an Assistant Professor of Physics at The Citadel. He earned a B.A. in German Language and Literature at the University of Maryland in 1991, then worked as a Revenue Officer with the Internal Revenue Service. After his government service, he earned a B.S. degree in Physics in 1997 at the University of Maryland, then M.S. (1999) and Ph.D. (2004) degrees in Physics at Caltech. His thesis pioneered a technique to infer average ionic charge states of solar energetic particles. After graduate school, Luke worked as a Space Systems Engineer and Space Scientist at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, CA. He was part of the three-person team at Northrop Grumman that formulated the original concept for what became NASA’s LCROSS mission to the Moon, and was named one of the mission’s first Co-Investigators when the team was started at NASA/Ames. LCROSS impacted the Moon in 2009, and discovered a reservoir of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at the lunar South Pole.  Luke’s research interests include properties of lunar and Martian dust (including dust properties experiments at low pressures), the search for materials of astrobiological significance on planetary bodies, the development of novel instrumentation including laser desorption and LIDAR technology, and planetary astronomy from suborbital platforms. At the Citadel, in addition to his research work, Luke teaches undergraduate physics classes and mentors cadets in their undergraduate research.

 

 

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