Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory ( LPL ) is a Research Centre for Planetary Sciences, Tucson, Arizona. It is simultaneously a graduate school and forms the Faculty of Planetary Sciences ( Department of Planetary Sciences ) of the University of Arizona. The LPL is one of the largest programs in the university environment, which will deal exclusively with planetology.


The LPL was founded in 1960 by astronomer Gerard Kuiper Peter. Kuiper was a longtime pioneer in the observation of the solar system and especially of the moon in a time when this was true among astronomers as untimely. His contributions included the discovery of the moons Miranda and Nereid, the detection of carbon dioxide on Mars and methane on Titan, and the prediction of later named after him Kuiper belt.

Kuiper came in search of greater independence than he had experienced at the University of Chicago, to Tucson, attracted by the opportunity to build a the studies of the solar system committed fellowship. In addition, the proximity lured him to the many promising places in the southern Arizona that seemed suitable for the construction of prominent observatories such as Kitt Peak National Observatory was founded in 1958. The LPL was established under the auspices of the University of Arizona and Kuiper initiated the establishment as a director until his death.

The projects of the LPL are truly interdisciplinary. The collective knowledge and techniques of astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, geophysics, geochemistry, processes in the atmosphere and engineering is focused on the study of planetary systems. Many students at LPL have studied in detail only with one or the other discipline, so that a broad-based curriculum is essential.

In 1973, the university a faculty of Planetology, which works continuously with the LPL. This measure offered the LPL administrative framework to accept a greater role in teaching. The Chairman of the LPL is also Dean of the Faculty and Director of the Laboratory. Currently the position with Timothy D. Swindle is busy.

Space missions

The LPL was involved in almost every interplanetary spacecraft left Earth. Some of the most important include:

  • Phoenix Scout Mission - Mars - Responsible for the design of the spacecraft and science operations on Mars.
  • Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - Mars - Responsible for the construction and operation of the HiRISE camera with an aperture of 50 cm.
  • Mars Global Surveyor - Mars - Dr. Alfred McEwen is a scientific member of the Mars Orbital Camera team. Dr. Steve Bougher in the development and testing of the braking system.
  • Deep Space 2 - Mars - One of the scientists was provided by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
  • Mars Odyssey - Mars - Responsible for construction and operation of the gamma-ray spectrometer Gamma Ray Spectrometer ( GRS).
  • Pioneer 10 - Jupiter - Responsible for controlling the imaging photopolarimeter (IPP).
  • Pioneer 11 - Jupiter and Saturn - Responsible for controlling the imaging photopolarimeter (IPP).
  • Pioneer - Venus - Venus - Responsible for the control and calibration of the Large sample Solar Flux Radiometer ( LFSR ).
  • MESSENGER - Mercury - Scientists at the LPL designed the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer ( MASCs )
  • Galileo - Jupiter On LPL were built parts of the UV spectrometer
  • Cassini - Saturn - the largest university contribution. Responsibility for production and analysis of surface images of Titan and Enceladus

Astronomical observations

The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is involved in the following programs:

  • Spacewatch, a program for the detection of Near-Earth Asteroids
  • On Planetary Atmosphere Project, which measures the content of the atmospheres of different planets
  • On the observation of occultations, which means Spectroscopy of a sun when it is hidden by a planet, the planet's atmosphere can be analyzed
  • Studies of the planet Mercury
  • At the Catalina Sky Survey

As well as to find in interdisciplinary research areas such as Theoretical Astrophysics and Space Physics answers to questions like: What is Dark Matter?