This fall, the University of Arizona Biosphere 2 continues its successful Let's Talk Science! lecture series for visitors to the facility. The talks are designed to increase the public's understanding of science topics through informal talks with scientists.
In celebration of the University recently being awarded the $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth, the series is being billed as a "Voyage through the Inner Solar System." Experts from both the UA and Arizona State University will speak on topics from this region of space.
This series has particular poignancy as it is being dedicated to the memory of Michael J. Drake, a UA Regents' Professor, director of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and head of the department of planetary sciences who died recently at the age of 65.
"Mike would have liked this series – he had a wide range of interests in planetary topics, and several of the speakers are among the world-renowned faculty members he hired. Plus, the series culminates with a presentation about OSIRIS-REx, the mission he worked so hard to get for so many years," said Timothy Swindle, professor of planetary sciences and acting director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and head of planetary sciences.
One of Biosphere 2's primary missions is to increase public scientific literacy by facilitating interactions among citizens and scientists and researchers. This series began in the spring of 2008 as part of that effort.
"We have members who come out here every Saturday to hear these talks regardless of scientific topic," said Matt Adamson, Biosphere 2 education and outreach coordinator. "I hear frequently from them that they're very pleased to have these types of talks available here since, often, they're unable to make the trip down to the UA main campus for similar talks."
A little-known fact is that the National Science Foundation ranks the UA first in the nation in external funding for research in the physical sciences, and planetary science is a key contributor to this extraordinary ranking.
With this quality of research comes the duty to share knowledge with the general public, and Biosphere 2 is an important part of this effort.
The public lectures at Biosphere 2 are a component of a substantial outreach effort spearheaded by College of Science Dean Joaquin Ruiz, and that also includes the recently announced partnership of the College of Science with local geotourism attractions and the continued commitment of the College to connect outreach programs focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiatives on campus and beyond.
"This close integration of world-class research and broad outreach activities is one of the unique strengths that make UA such a great resource for the city, the state and the nation" said Pierre Meystre, Regents' Professor and director of the B2 Institute.
The talks will be held at Biosphere 2 every Saturday at noon from Oct. 22 through Dec. 10, with the exception of Nov. 26. They are included with the cost of tour admission.
The lineup this fall includes an impressive array of faculty members from both UA and ASU:
"The Early History of our Solar System" by Renu Malhotra,
professor of planetary sciences; chair, theoretical astrophysics program, UA
"The Planet Mercury: Now studied by NASA's MESSENGER Mission" by Ann L. Sprague, senior research associate, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA
"Why did my cable TV almost go out? Can we blame the Sun?" by Joe Giacalone, professor, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA
"Where Did All Earth's Water Come From?" by Ilaria Pascucci, assistant professor, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA
"Phoenix Mars Mission-Next Step to the Future" by Patrick Woida, Raytheon Space Systems, formerly of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, UA
"The OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission" by Dante S. Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, associate professor, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory/department of planetary sciences, UA
"Asteroids, Ion Propulsion, and NASA's Dawn Mission to Vesta" by David A. Williams, faculty research associate, School of Earth and Space Exploration, ASU