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Matthew Golombek

Photo of Matthew Golombek


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-501

Pasadena, CA 91109






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Member of:

Planetary Geosciences

MER Project Scientist


  • A.B. in Geology, Rutgers College (honors and highest distinction) (1976)
  • M.S. in Geology/Geophysics, University of Massachusetts (1978)
  • Ph.D. in Geology/Geophysics, University of Massachusetts (1981)

Professional Experience

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
    • Senior Research Scientist (2006-present)
    • Mars Exploration Program Landing Site Scientist, JPL (2000-present)
    • Co-Investigator, InSight, Discovery Program mission, Geology and Landing Site Lead (2012-present)
    • Mars Helicopter (on the Mars 2020 Rover) operations lead for selecting the location to deploy the helicopter and to localize the helicopter after each flight
    • MER Project Scientist (2012-2019)
    • Mars Exploration Rover Participating Scientist: Science Operations Working Group Chair, Long Term Planning Science Theme Group Lead, & Geology Science Theme Group Czar (2002-2019)
    • Mars Pathfinder Project Scientist: JPL, (1993-1998)
    • Mars Observer and Global Surveyor Participating Scientist: MOLA Science Team Member (1997-2007)
  • Visiting Associate and Lecturer in Planetary Science: Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology (April 2012-present)
  • Visiting Full Professor: Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (March 2001 - June 2001)
  • Visiting Scientist: Laboratory for Atmospheric & Space Physics, Univ. Colorado (October 2000 - November 2000)
  • Visiting Scientist & Post-Doctoral Fellow: Lunar & Planetary Institute, Houston (1981-1983)

Research Interests

  • Assessment and Selection of Mars Landing Sites (Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory, InSight, Mars 2020 Rover)
  • Predicting Surface Characteristics at a Lander Scale on Mars from Remote Sensing Signatures
  • Development of Rock Size-Frequency Distributions and Geomorphology of Mars Landing Sites
  • Erosion Rates and Recent Climate from Geomorphic Development of Landed Surfaces on Mars
  • Tectonics and Structural Geology of Mars
  • Geology and Tectonics of Mars (Postdoc Opportunity)

Selected Awards

  • G. K Gilbert Award, Planetary Geology Division, Geological Society of America, (2015)
  • Distinguished Alumni Award, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, October 4, 2014.
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, Mars Science Laboratory Landing (2013)
  • NASA Exceptional Service Medal (2012)
  • NASA Group Achievement Award MRO HiRISE Science Team (2011)
  • Award for Excellence, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Exceptional Technical Excellence (1998)
  • Distinguished Alumni Awards, Univ. Massachusetts & Rutgers Univ. Alumni Associations (1998)
  • NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1998)
  • Fellow of the Geological Society of America

Selected Publications

  1. Wise, D. U., Golombek, M. P., and McGill, G. E., 1979, Tharsis province of Mars: Geologic sequence, geometry, and a deformation mechanism: Icarus, v. 38, p. 456-472.
  2. Golombek, M. P., Plescia, J. B., and Franklin, B. J., 1991, Faulting and folding in the formation of planetary wrinkle ridges: Proc. 21st Lunar & Planetary Science Conference, p. 679-693.
  3. Tanaka, K. L., Golombek, M. P., and Banerdt, W. B., 1991, Reconciling stress and structural histories of the Tharsis region of Mars: J. Geophys. Res., v. 96, p. 15,617-15,633.
  4. Banerdt, W. B., Golombek, M. P., and Tanaka, K. L., 1992, Stress and Tectonics on Mars, Chapter 8, p. 249-297, in MARS, Kieffer, H. H., Jakosky, B. M., Snyder, C. W., and Matthews, M. S., eds., University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1498 pp.
  5. Golombek, M. P., Banerdt, W. B., Tanaka, K. L., and Tralli, D. M., 1992, A prediction of Mars seismicity from surface faulting: Science, v. 258, p. 979-981.
  6. Golombek, M. P., Tanaka, K. L., and Franklin, B. J., 1996, Extension across Tempe Terra, Mars from measurements of fault-scarp widths and deformed craters: J. Geophys. Res., v. 101, p. 26,119-26,130.
  7. Golombek, M. P., 1997, The Mars Pathfinder mission: J. Geophys. Res., 102, p. 3953-3965.
  8. Golombek, M. P., Cook, R. A., Moore, H. J., and Parker, T. J., 1997, Selection of the Mars Pathfinder landing site: J. Geophys. Res., v. 102, p. 3967-3988.
  9. Golombek, M., and Rapp, D., 1997, Size-frequency distributions of rocks on Mars and Earth analog sites: Implications for future landed missions: J. Geophys. Res., v. 102, p. 4117-4129.
  10. Golombek, M. P., et al., 1997, Overview of the Mars Pathfinder mission and assessment of landing site predictions: Science, v. 278, p. 1743-1748.
  11. Golombek, M. P., The Mars Pathfinder mission: Scientific American, v. 279, p. 40-49, July 1998.
  12. Golombek, M. P., 1999, A message from warmer times; Perspectives on Martian Climate: Science, v. 283, p. 1470-1471.
  13. Golombek, M. P., and the Mars Pathfinder science team, 1999, Overview of the Mars Pathfinder mission: Launch through landing, surface operations, data sets, and science results: J. Geophys. Res., v. 104, p. 8523-8553.
  14. Golombek, M. P., et al., 1999, Assessment of Mars Pathfinder landing site predictions: J. Geophys. Res., v. 104, p. 8585-8594.
  15. Golombek, M. P., and Bridges, N. T., 2000, Erosion rates on Mars and implications for climate change: Constraints from the Pathfinder landing site: J. Geophys. Res., v. 105, p. 1841-1853.
  16. Phillips, R. J., Zuber, M. T., Solomon, S. C., Golombek, M. P., Jakosky, B. M., Banerdt, W. B., Smith, D. E., Williams, R. M. E., Hynek, B. M., Ahronson, O., and Hauck, S. A., 2001, Ancient geodynamics and global-scale hydrology on Mars: Science, v. 291, p. 2587-2591.
  17. Golombek, M. P., Anderson, F. S., and Zuber, M. T., 2001, Martian wrinkle ridge topography: Evidence for subsurface faults from MOLA: J. Geophys. Res., v. 106, p. 23,811-23,821.
  18. Golombek, M. P., 2003, The surface of Mars: Not just dust and rocks, Science, v. 300, p. 2043-2044.
  19. Golombek, M. P., et al., 2003, Rock size-frequency distributions on Mars and implications for MER landing safety and operations: J. Geophys. Res., v. 108(E12), 8086, doi:10.1029/2002JE002035, 23pp.
  20. Golombek, M. P., et al., 2003, Selection of the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites: J. Geophys. Res., v. 108(E12), 8072, doi:10.1029/2003JE002074, 48pp.
  21. Mueller, K., and Golombek, M., 2004, Compressional structures on Mars, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, v. 32, p. 435-464.
  22. Golombek, M., Arvidson, R. E., Bell III, J. F., Christensen, P. R., Crisp, J. A., Crumpler, L. S., Ehlmann, B. L., Fergason, R. L., Grant, J. A., Greeley, R., Haldemann, A. F. C., Kass, D. M., Parker, T. J., Schofield. J. T., Squyres, S. W., and Zurek, R. W., 2005, Assessment of Mars Exploration Rover landing site predictions: Nature, v. 436, p. 44-48 (7 July 2005), doi: 10.1038/nature03600.
  23. Golombek, M. P., Crumpler, L. S., Grant, J. A., Greeley, R., Cabrol, N. A., Parker, T. J., Rice Jr., J. W., Ward, J. G., Arvidson, R. E., Moersch, J. E., Fergason, R. L., Christensen, P. R., Castano, A., Castano, R., Haldemann, A. F. C., Li, R., Bell III, J. F., and Squyres, S. W., 2006, Geology of the Gusev cratered plains from the Spirit rover traverse: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 110, E02S07, doi:10.1029/2005JE002503.
  24. Golombek, M. P., Grant, J. A., Crumpler, L. S., Greeley, R., Arvidson, R. E., Bell III, J. F., Weitz, C. M., Sullivan, R., Christensen, P. R., Soderblom, L. A., and Squyres, S. W., 2006, Erosion rates at the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites and long-term climate change on Mars: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 111, E12S10, doi:10.1029/2006JE002754.
  25. Golombek, M. P., and McSween Jr., H. Y., 2007, Mars: Landing site geology, mineralogy and geochemistry: Chapter 17, p. 331-348, in Encyclopedia of the Solar System, Second Edition, L. A. McFadden, P. R. Weissman and T. V. Johnson, eds., Academic Press/Elsevier, San Diego, 966 pp.
  26. Golombek, M. P., Haldemann, A. F. C., Simpson, R. A., Fergason, R. L., Putzig, N. E., Arvidson, R. E., Bell III, J. F., and Mellon, M. T., 2008, Martian surface properties from joint analysis of orbital, Earth-based, and surface observations: Chapter 21 in, The Martian Surface: Composition, Mineralogy and Physical Properties, J. Bell editor, Cambridge Press, p. 468-497.
  27. Golombek, M. P., Huertas, A., Marlow, J., McGrane, B., Klein, C., Martinez, M., Arvidson, R. E., Heet. T., Barry. L., Seelos, K., Adams, D., Li, W., Matijevic, J. R., Parker, T., Sizemore, H. G., Mellon, M., McEwen, A. S., Tamppari. L. K., and Cheng, Y., 2008, Size-frequency distributions of rocks on the northern plains of Mars with special reference to Phoenix landing surfaces: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 113, E00A09, doi:10.1029/2007JE003065.
  28. Golombek, M. P., and Phillips, R. J., 2010, Mars Tectonics: Review Chapter in Planetary Tectonics, T. Watters and R. Schultz, eds., Cambridge University Press, pp. 183-232..
  29. Chappelow, J. E., and Golombek, M. P., 2010, The event and conditions that produced the Block Island meteorite on Mars: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 115, E00F07, doi:10.1029/2010JE003666.
  30. Golombek, M., Robinson, K., McEwen, A., Bridges, N., Ivanov, B., Tornabene, L., and Sullivan, R., 2010, Constraints on ripple migration at Meridiani Planum from Opportunity and HiRISE observations of fresh craters: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 115, E00F08, doi:10.1029/2010JE003628.
  31. Golombek, M., et al., 2012, Selection of the Mars Science Laboratory landing site: Space Science Reviews, v. 170, p. 641-737, DOI: 10.1007/s11214-012-9916-y.
  32. Golombek, M., Huertas, A., Kipp, D. and Calef, F., 2012, Detection and characterization of rocks and rock size-frequency distributions at the final four Mars Science Laboratory landing sites: Mars, 7, 1-22, doi:10.1555/mars.2012.0001.
  33. Golombek, M. P., Warner, N. H., Ganti, V., Lamb, M. P., Parker, T. J., Fergason, R. L., and Sullivan, R., 2014, Small crater modification on Meridiani Planum and implications for erosion rates and climate change on Mars: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 119, DOI: 10.1002/2014JE004658, 10 Dec. 2014.
  34. Golombek, M., et al., 2017, Selection of the InSight landing site: Space Science Reviews, v. 211, p. 5-95, DOI 10.1007/s11214-016-0321-9
  35. Golombek, M., et al., 2018, Geology and Physical Properties Investigations by the InSight Lander: Space Science Reviews, v. 214: 84,
  36. Golombek, M., et al., 2020, Geology of the InSight landing site on Mars: Nature Communications, v. 11, art. # 1014,
  37. Golombek, M., Kass, D., Williams, N., Warner, N., Daubar, I., Piqueux, S., Charalambous, C., and Pike, W. T., 2020, Assessment of InSight landing site predictions: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 125, e2020JE006502. 10.1029/2020JE006502.
  38. Golombek, M., et al., 2020, Location and setting of the Mars InSight lander, instruments and landing site: Earth and Space Science, v. 7, e2020EA001248.