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Adriana Ocampo - Planetary Geologist - Pasadena City College

Pasadena City College alumna Adriana C. Ocampo is presently a Science Program Manager at NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate, in the Planetary Science Division responsible for the New Frontiers Program. As the New Frontier Lead Program Executive she is responsible for the Juno mission to Jupiter (with a USD$1B plus budget), and the New Horizons mission to Pluto. She also is the Lead Venus Scientist responsible for NASA’s collaboration in ESA’s Venus Express mission, JAXA’s Venus Climate Orbit, and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG), which develops strategic plans and assessments for the exploration of this planet. Ocampo was a research scientist at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Caltech/JPL), where she worked since 1973. In 2005 she was the Investigation Scientist for the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer/High Energy Neutron Detector/MARIE and also worked for the Mars Program Science Division and the Solid Earth and Natural Disasters Program.

She worked at European Space Agency (ESA) from 2002 to 2004 as a senior research staff member responsible for conducting research in comparative planetology of Solar System bodies. AT ESA, she was a member of the Mars Express Project Scientist Team developing and implementing the payload-commissioning plan. She also acted as the deputy project scientist for Venus Express, developing science operation architecture and an educational outreach plan.

In 1998 to 2002 Ms. Ocampo was appointed to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Headquarters Offices at Washington D.C. During her appointment in NASA Headquarters she worked in the Office of Space Science and the Office of External Relations as a program executive for Space Science missions with international collaboration (i.e. ESA, IKI, ISAS, CONAE, etc), among which included missions with the European Space Agency, Russia, Japan and Argentina. As a Program Executive she was responsible for the development, integration, implementation and budget for these missions (i.e. CLUSTER, XMM, INTEGRAL, ASTRO-E MAP, SWIFT). She was also the Russian (and all the former Soviet Union independent countries), Spain, Portugal and Latin America desk officer for NASA’s Office of External Relations. During her tenure at NASA Headquarters she also worked in the Office of Earth Science in the Solid Earth and Natural Hazards Division.

Ms. Ocampo completed her Bachelor of Science degree at California State University of Los Angeles, USA in Geology with an emphasis in Planetary Science. She completed her Master of Science in Geology at California State University Northridge, USA with a thesis on the Chicxulub impact crater in Mexico. The Chicxulub crater was the major factor that caused a mass extinction 65 million years ago on our planet. She is currently enrolled in Vrije Universiteit in The Netherlands completing her PhD work.

Born in Barranquilla, Colombia and raised in Argentina, she arrived in the United States 35 years ago. She came to Caltech’s JPL, (a NASA centre) as a high school student where she had the opportunity to gain experience in planetary science. She worked on the Viking mission to Mars as part of the Imaging Team. She was involved in sequence planning and data analysis of Mars images, specifically planning observations of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos and searching for a ring and other satellites around Mars. This work culminated in a NASA publication of a Phobos Atlas, which was used in planning the Russian Phobos mission to that moon. Since then, she has worked in many planetary mission that explore our Solar System.

During the Voyager mission to the outer planets, she worked on the Navigation and Mission Planning Team, which included the development of the Saturn ephemerides. She also worked at JPL’s Multi-mission Image Processing Laboratory where she developed an expertise in image processing applied to Earth and planetary remote sensing. She also worked in Galileo’s Flight Projects Mission Operations as a science coordinator for the Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (NIMS); NIMS is an instrument onboard the Galileo Orbiter mission to Jupiter, launched in October 18, 1989.

As a NIMS science coordinator on the Galileo mission, she was responsible for Europa science observations planning, sequencing and data analysis. She also worked on the Mars Observer Project as the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) instrument science representative. For the Mars Observer Project she also served as the Inter-Disciplinary scientist science representative. She was a co-investigator on two Discovery proposals; Hermes to explore the planet Mercury and an Io-Europa Mapper to Jupiter's moons.

In addition to her work with planetary missions, Ms. Ocampo has conducted research on the Chicxulub impact crater since 1988. She was the first to recognize that a ring of sinkholes or "cenotes" found in the Yucatan peninsula was related to the buried impact crater. The Chicxulub impact caused the extinction of more than 50% of the Earth species, including the dinosaurs, at the end of the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago). She was given a NASA grant to continue her research on the effects of the impact on the Earth's biosphere and how those effects relate to the mass extinction. While conducting field research in Belize in 1991, she discovered the only known surface exposures of the most proximal ejecta blanket from the Chicxulub impact. She has led three geological expeditions to Belize (Jan. 1995, Jan. 1996 and Jan. 1998), sponsored by The Planetary Society (TPS), to study these ejecta deposits. These sites are proving to be important in understanding the role of large impacts in Earth’s history and as a planetary analogue. In 1996 she was co-leader of a TPS expedition to Gubbio, Italy to drill at the original discovery site of impact ejecta at the K/T boundary site.

She has given many scientific lectures in English and Spanish on her Chicxulub research including Stanford (1995), Caltech (1995), University of California Berkeley (1995), University of Reno (1996), National Institute of Standard’s and Technology (1997), Santa Monica City College (1997), University of Oregon (1998), Challenger Centre’s Annual Flight Director Conference (2000), ESA ESTEC, ESLAB Conference (2002), and numerous professional meetings.

In September 1987 she organized a course in Planetary Sciences that was taught in Mexico City under the sponsorship of The Planetary Society. This course was the first of its kind designed for disseminating planetary science to developing countries. This prototype proved so successful that the United Nations (UN), in conjunction with the European Space Agency and The Planetary Society, has funded similar workshops in Costa Rica and Colombia (1992), Nigeria (1993), Egypt (1994), Sri Lanka (1996), Germany (1996), Honduras (1997), Jordan (1999), France (2000), Mauritius (2001), Argentina (2002) and China (2003). She is a major force in developing the format and character of these workshops working in conjunction with UN Office of Outer Space Affairs Office, and through them is helping promote scientific and educational cooperation in Space Science between developing and developed countries.

Ms. Ocampo was a principal organizer of the "Space Conference for the Americas (CEA): Prospects in Cooperation," which was held March 12-16, 1990, in San Jose, Costa Rica. The aim of this conference, which was developed in conjunction with the United Nations, was to encourage cooperation in the areas of science and technology for peaceful uses of space among the Pan-American countries to improve the quality of life. Continuing this effort she helped in the organization of the Second Space Conference of the Americas held in Santiago, Chile in April 1993,in the third conference held in Montevideo, Uruguay in November 1996 and the IVCEA in Cartagena, Colombia May, 2002. She continues to work in this effort as part of an international advisory board. She has served on the U.S. Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) National Board of Directors for five years, first as national secretary and then two consecutive terms as the national vice-president. She has also served as Chair of SHPE's International Affairs Committee, which establishes technical programs of cooperation and university student exchange programs between the US and Mexico.

She is a member of The Planetary Society Advisory Council, a worldwide non-profit organization, which aims to disseminate the latest scientific results and excitement in planetary exploration to the general public.

In 2002 she was featured at the award winning Educational Series Women in Science in the module “Space Geologist” ( She helped developed this educational and mentoring educational module to promote science. Wonderwise is an award wining series funded from a grant from the US National Science Foundation. Ms. Ocampo is a member of the Association of Women in Geosciences, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Society of Women Engineers where she is a strong supporter of the "shadow program" (which is a mentoring program for young girls), and many other professional organizations. She was a member of JPL’s Advisory Council for Women that reports directly to the Laboratory Director from 1985- 1987.

As a participant of the JPL Speakers Bureau, she has represented NASA/JPL at various Spanish and English speaking engagements locally and abroad promoting space science and engineering. In 1992 she was awarded the Woman of the Year Award in Science by "Comision Femenil" of Los Angeles. In 1994 she was the only scientist selected by JPL to represent the Laboratory at the Leadership Conference for Women in Science and Engineering in Washington DC. She has been featured in the "Latino Pride Calendar," and several books including "Science Interactions", "Paramount Publishing Education", and "Women of Hope/Latinas Abriendo Camino" (video and poster) which are all mentoring publications. She was invited by the Girl Scout Council to contribute to their mentoring book "Recipes for Success" and she has also contributed to a Geometry and Secondary Mathematics textbook using the Galileo spacecraft as a vehicle for learning published by McDougal Littell, Houghton Mifflin Publishing Co.

In November 1996, she was awarded JPL’s Advisory Council for Women Award for outreach and community work. In September 1997, she received a science and technology award from the Chicano Federation for her contribution to science. In 1998 she was asked to represent NASA on the "Embrace Space" International Advisory Board. She has received several awards from NASA for her contributions to space missions.

In 2001 she was given by the European Space Agency an award for making outstanding contributions to the CLUSTERII Mission. She is currently a student pilot and has applied to become a Space Shuttle mission specialist with NASA On November 2003 Discovery Magazine selected her among the 50 most important women in science. And in July 2003 she was awarded the Colombian Orquidea Award in science. On August 2003 she was selected as part of 100 scholars to participate at the Foundation for the Future “Humanity 3000” Forum.

In 2003 she was selected by the US Academy of Science to participate in a biographical series for children featuring women in science. She is among 27 women scientists selected for this educational non-profit program. Also the Heinnemann Library is currently doing biography on her that will be use as an educational outreach tool to keep children interested on science. In 2004 she was appointed Senior Adviser for the UNESCO-IUGS International Earth Year (2005-2007) an Earth science for Society Initiative.

On November 2004 she was awarded the 2004 Outstanding Alumni from the California Community College League. In 2007 she was award the CSUN Outstanding Alumni Award for her contributions to space science.

She has written the first book (Spanish) in a series of space science children books, aim to make science fun. This first space science children book in the series is being published by NASA as part of the material to be provided for the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

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