Newsletter 18-29

Issue 18-29, July 15, 2018










Bradford A. Smith, planetary astronomer best known as the lead imaging

scientist on the Voyager mission who guided the world during the 1980s

on a visual odyssey across the outer solar system, passed away peacefully

at his home in Santa Fe, NM on July 3, 2018 from complications from

myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder.  He was 86.


Brad was born in 1931 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and grew up in nearby

Winchester, MA.  He graduated in 1954 from Northeastern University with 

a BSc degree in Chemical Engineering and received a PhD in Astronomy

from New Mexico State University in 1973.  During the course of his career, 

he held the academic appointments of Associate Professor of Astronomy at

New Mexico State University, Professor in both the Department of Planetary

Sciences and the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, and

finally Research Astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy, University of

Hawaii at Manoa. 


Despite his early training as a chemical engineer, Brad’s first love was astronomy.  

After college, he spent two years as a private in the army, working as an

astronomer in the US Army Map Service at the White Sands Missile Range

in New Mexico, where he began a long and productive association with Clyde

Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto.  His first astronomical project was a search 

(with negative results) for possible natural satellites of the Moon at Lowell

Observatory, with Tombaugh, during the lunar eclipse of November 17-18, 1956.


Soon thereafter, he followed Tombaugh to New Mexico State University and

in 1958 established there a program of systematic, ground-based telescopic

imaging of the planets in support of the robotic planetary missions on which

the newly formed NASA would soon be embarking.  This was the dawn of the 

space age, a time when planetary science as a disciplined study of the planets

was only just taking shape.  Brad’s cutting-edge knowledge and experience in 

imaging the planets earned him membership in that first generation of explorers

chosen to execute humankind’s initial reconnaissance of the solar system. 


Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, he was involved in many US and

international space missions: the Mariner 6, Mariner 7, Viking, and Soviet

Phobos missions to Mars; the Soviet Vega mission to Halley’s Comet; and

the Wide Field/Planetary Camera team for the Hubble Space Telescope. He

rose to deputy team leader for the imaging investigation on Mariner 9, the

first spacecraft to orbit another planet in 1971, and from 1972 through 1989,

served as the imaging lead on the Voyager mission to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus,

and Neptune.  For his contributions to space science, he was four times 

awarded the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. 

Asteroid 8553 (bradsmith) is named for him.


While still deeply involved in spaceflight, Brad continued to push the limits

in Earth-based astronomical imaging. In early 1976 Brad and his colleagues

were the first to use a CCD detector on an astronomical telescope, yielding

the first high-resolution infrared images of Uranus and Neptune.  Later, in 

1984, he would be the first to use a coronagraph on the star β Pictoris, an

observational breakthrough that led to his discovery of the star’s circumstellar

debris disk.  This was the first direct evidence of a planetary system beyond 

our own and a finding that initiated the observational study of extrasolar

planetary systems, today the most productive field in astronomy.



Within a career of scientific firsts, Brad’s most renowned role was his leadership

of the imaging team on the most celebrated interplanetary mission of them all,

the Voyager mission to the outer planets.  Voyager was different than any 

mission that had come before.   It was a long-duration, uncertain, risky 

undertaking to journey across and beyond the solar system, coursing on the

way through one giant-planet system after another, that became iconic in its

scope and significance … more rite of passage than expedition, more mythic

than scientific. Those extraordinary images of alien worlds and stunning

marvels, so unexpected, all never seen before, and that pre-cognitive sense

of being there that they evoked, were the means by which lay people the world

over felt connected to a grand pilgrimage, with Brad as head pilgrim, rendering

meaning along the way. And he excelled at it:  well-spoken, commanding, 

knowledgeable, witty, with movie star good looks.  Central Casting could not 

have done better.


At the same time, he was very much responsible for the phenomenal scientific

success of the whole imaging investigation.  He was one of few who had the 

foresight to recognize the satellites and, later, the rings of the outer planets

would be as fascinating as the planets themselves, and the need for a high-

resolution imaging capability to address both.  These realizations drove him 

to insist on a change in the optics of the Voyager cameras and to hand-appoint

to the original NASA-selected imaging team (against the wishes of NASA

officials) additional scientists with expertise in atmospheric science, geology

and planetary rings, as well as those directly involved in ground-based studies

of the bodies that Voyager would visit, to take advantage of the imaging

system’s increased capabilities.   And he was gender blind: three of those 

additions, from 1977 to 1988, were women, including myself.  He simply 

went after the best.


Brad was worldly and engaged in life in ways many of his colleagues were not.  

Maybe it was this that moved him to extend a hand, again without official

approval, to scientists from other countries at a time when it was rare to do so. 

For the Neptune encounter, he invited onto the imaging team Andre Brahic

from France and Sasha Basilevsky from the Soviet Union. The latter was a

bold gesture, considering that the Cold War had not yet ended.   It was Sasha 

who proclaimed that the surface of Neptune’s moon, Triton, was like frozen vodka!



Many of us chosen for the Cassini mission back to Saturn were among those

Brad added to the Voyager imaging team. I surely would not have won the

position of imaging team lead on Cassini had it not been for his selection of

me for Voyager.  He might have had a reputation for being unapproachable 

and intimidating, but under it all, away from the politics and pressure, he was

a gentleman, loved by many for his encouragement, open-mindedness, and

willingness to listen.  He was there for me through some very difficult and 

punishing times over the 27 years of Cassini.  He was one who knew firsthand 

what the job of imaging team leader entailed, what deep resentment from

colleagues came with the very public-facing nature of the job, and how

politically charged it could be.  Through it all, he remained a steadfast supporter.



Once Cassini reached Saturn, Brad would occasionally send me communications

that only someone who had held the seat in an earlier era could send.


During our first satellite encounter in mid-2004 with Saturn’s outer moon,

Phoebe: “There simply are no adequate words to describe those pictures! 

Now I know how Tom Gehrels [imaging team leader for Pioneer 11 at Saturn]

felt when he saw the Saturn Voyager images.”   


On our findings at Enceladus in 2005:  “Unbelievable!  I haven’t seen such a

tormented satellite since Miranda [moon of Uranus].  You certainly are doing 

fantastic work!  It brings back memories of past exciting times.”


And he was still there. cheering, only days before Cassini’s end:   “I can 

remember my own emotions as Voyager 2 headed away from Neptune,

ending the imaging phase of the mission.  So, I can only imagine the emotion 

you will be going through seeing your beloved Cassini die after all your

years together.”


In the history of human life, Bradford A. Smith was consequential in the

most meaningful of ways.  He will be fondly remembered.  



Brad is survived by his wife, Diane McGregor, his three children, Kari

Rasmason of Albuquerque, NM, Hillary Tolmen of Cape Coral, FL, and

Randall Smith of Albuquerque, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.   


A memorial service will be held at the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the

University of Arizona on September 22, 2018.  

For more info:


Carolyn Porco

Mill Valley, California


(with assistance from Diane McGregor, Santa Fe, New Mexico; 

William Sheehan, Flagstaff, Arizona;  and Faith Vilas, Seabrook, Texas)


Carolyn Porco was a member of the Voyager Imaging Team from October

1983 through the end of mission in 1989.  She has been the imaging team 

leader on the Cassini mission at Saturn since November 1990.







Registration is now open!


Both local and scientific organizing committees are working with AAS

meeting planners to make this meeting a place to share our recent

scientific results and to continue our collaborations with colleagues.


More information, as it becomes available, can be found at the meeting website:


Here are some key dates to be aware of:


26 July 2018 Regular Abstract Deadline, 9:00 PM EDT

31 July 2018 Early Registration Deadline (lowest cost!)

31 July 2018 Exhibit Final Deadline

31 August 2018 Late Abstract Submission Deadline

15 September 2018 Dependent Care Grant Applications Due


Note that there will be limited and expensive hotel rooms close to the Knoxville

Convention Center in downtown Knoxville on the Saturday night before the meeting

(Oct 20) due to the home football game between Tennessee and Alabama. The LOC

and AAS staff are working to find meeting space so that workshops can be held on

Saturday October 27. There will be meeting space for workshops at the Knoxville

Convention Center on Sunday October 21 (before the meeting), but it will be

extremely difficult for some people to get into Knoxville early that day (particularly

those coming from the west coast).  Another option for workshop attendees would 

be to stay at a hotel outside of the downtown area on Saturday night.  Workshop 

conveners should consider these constraints and communicate with expected

attendees when deciding on workshop dates and times.


Two field trips are being scheduled for Saturday, October 27. Expected

offerings include a visit to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, nearby

caves, and hiking in the Smoky Mountains.


We plan to continue offering electronic posters this year. We will also be having a

banquet at the Knoxville Museum of Art and an ice-cream social on Friday afternoon.


We look forward to seeing you in Knoxville in October.





The 2018 election for DPS Vice-Chair and Committee is now open, and will

close on July 31st 2018.


Please remember to vote! 


Go to

You will need your AAS member login ID (which defaults to your membership

number), and your password. 


If you have trouble voting on line, the AAS can do a proxy vote and vote on your

behalf (send an e-mail to [email protected]). You will still get an automated email 

confirmation and a separate manual email, both with who you voted for and a

confirmation number. 


You should vote for one of the two candidates for Vice Chair:

o Matija Ćuk, SETI Institute

o Amanda Hendrix, Planetary Science Institute


The elected Vice Chair will take his/her functions in October 2018 and will

become the DPS Chair in October 2019.


You should also vote for two of the four candidates for DPS Committee: 

o Michael Bland

o Will Grundy, Lowell Observatory

o Lucille Le Corre, Planetary Science Institute

o Krista Soderlund, University of Texas


The successful candidates will serve on the Committee for three years after

October 2018.


The detailed vitae and position statements for each of the candidates is linked

from the main election page,


It is very important for all DPS Members to participate to these elections, so

please take a moment to vote!


Thank you!







The MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences 
invites qualified candidates to apply for a tenure-track faculty 
position. The search is in the broad area of geophysics and 
geochemistry encompassing the Earth and other planetary bodies in the 
solar system. We seek candidates who use theory, observation, and/or 
experimentation and particularly encourage applicants whose work 
crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries. Candidates should have 
the potential for innovation and leadership in research and a 
commitment to teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Applicants must hold a Ph.D. in geoscience or related field by the 
start of employment. Our intent is to hire at the assistant professor 
level, but more senior appointments may also be considered. A complete 
application must include a cover letter, curriculum vitae, one- to 
two-page descriptions each of research and teaching plans, and three 
letters of recommendations. We request that in their cover letter, 
applicants explicitly commit to our department’s code of conduct:

Submit applications at:

To receive full consideration, complete applications must be received 
by November 1, 2018.

Search Contact: 
Ms. Karen Fosher, HR Administrator, EAPS, 54-924
[email protected]


Send submissions to: 

Anne Verbiscer, DPS Secretary ([email protected]


You are receiving this email because you are a DPS member.

To unsubscribe or update your information, please send your request

to [email protected]. The more general AAS privacy policy is available

online at