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Dr. Thomas Prettyman

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Senior Scientist

Currently resides in NM
prettyman [at] psi.edu
Areas of Expertise
Targets: Asteroids, Ceres, Comets, Dwarf planets, Earth, Mars, Meteorites, Moon, Small satellites, Vesta
Disciplines/Techniques: 3D Printing, Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Field Work, Gamma-ray spectroscopy, Geochemistry, Geology, Mapping, Neutron detectors, Neutron spectroscopy, Numerical modeling, Remote sensing, Shape modeling
Missions: Dawn, Lunar Prospector, Mars Odyssey, Psyche
Mission Roles: Calibration/Test planning, Data archive, Data validation, Electronics design, Flight Software, Instrument operations, Instrument PI, Mission Co-Investigator, Mission operations, Mission science team, Requirements generation and flow down
Instruments: Gamma-ray detectors, Neutron detectors

Research Interests

My research emphasizes planetary remote sensing using nuclear spectroscopy and includes space physics and cosmic ray studies. Nuclear spectroscopy provides information on the chemical makeup and physical structure of planetary surfaces and atmospheres needed to understand a wide range of geologic processes. I am involved in the development of instrumentation and mission concepts for planetary science; and I reduce, analyze, and interpret data acquired by missions to the Moon, Mars, Mercury, as well as small bodies such as the main belt asteroid 4 Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. Additional areas of interest include applications of radiation measurement technology to terrestrial geology, medicine, and national security. Many of these applications use sensor technology and analytical methods similar those developed for space and planetary science.  

Professional History

I received my PhD in Nuclear Engineering in 1991 from North Carolina State University. I joined PSI in 2007 after 14 years as a member of the Technical Staff of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). While at LANL, I developed instrumentation and systems for nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation. I also participated in the design, development, and operation of space-based radiation detectors for Department of Energy nuclear monitoring payloads. I was a member of the Lunar Prospector team at LANL and a Participating Scientist on the 2001 Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer investigation (primary and extended missions). As a Co-I of the NASA Dawn mission, I served as lead for the Gamma Ray Neutron Detector (GRaND) from development through end of mission. Current missions include Psyche (Co-I), a mission to main belt asteroid 16 Psyche, and LunaH-Map (Co-I), a small-sat mission that will explore the lunar south pole. Both missions are in development. In addition to planetary missions, I have worked on instrument/concept development (PIDDP/PICASSO), data analysis (LDAP/MDAP), and NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC Phase I/II fellow). I'm currently a member of the SSERVI/TREX team and PI for a project studying Ceres' hydrothermal evolution (DDAP).

Honors and Awards

Minor Planet 24994 Prettyman
NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (2017)
NASA Group Achievement Awards for Lunar Prospector (1999), Mars Odyssey (2002), Dawn (2008, 2009, 2013, 2016, 2019), and Psyche (2020)
LANL Large Team Distinguished Performance Awards for Lunar Prospector (1998), Mars Odyssey (2002), and the SABRS Validation Experiment (SAVE) (2004)

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