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William  Smythe's Picture
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
M/S 183-601
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
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William Smythe

Dr. William Smythe is a native Californian who greatly enjoys discovering how the solar system works.

At UCLA, he devoted 25 years to conducting a research program in Antarctica on oscillations of the Earth's inner core and the Earth's free oscillations.

At JPL he served for two decades as the team chief for the Galileo near-infrared spectrometer - developing and calibrating the instrument, integrating it onto the Galileo spacecraft, designing and conducting observations of Jupiter and its satellites, and analyzing the data returned from the instrument . He has participated in many space flight missions including, for Mars, Viking and Mars Observer, for the outer planets Voyager and Galileo, and most recently, for comets, as the instrument manager for the recent Deep Impact mission. He is presently a principal scientist at JPL, specializing in understanding the composition of the surfaces of planetary bodies, and producing cutting edge science instruments like ones flying on the Deep Impact. He is currently engaged in designing new missions to the planets, in building a miniature spectrometer to fit within a drill for a future Mars mission and also conducting laboratory research on the transport of light in snow.

He is a life member of the American Geophysical Union, a member of the European Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Astronomical Society division of Planetary Sciences and is a fellow of the Explorer's Club.

Dr. Smythe has been a strong supporter of education and outreach for many years, often speaking to the public, at student career workshops and at teachers' workshops on deep space missions.

  • BA, Chemistry, University of California, San Diego (1970)
  • PhD, Geochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles (1979)

Research Interests
  • Composition and chemistry of planetary surfaces
  • Bidirectional reflectance of ices, minerals, and plants
  • Earth tides and free oscillations
  • Flight instrumentation

Selected Awards
  • NASA Group Achievement Award, Juno Proposal Team (2012)
  • NASA Group Achievement Award Rapid Mission Architecture Team (2011)
  • NASA Exceptional Service Award, Galileo
  • NASA Group Achievement awards include Galileo Orbiter Instrument Design, Development, and Test: NIMS instrument, Science Calibration Subsystem, Instrument Coordinators (1991)
  • US Antarctic medal (1975)
  • Antarctic place name - Marie Byrd Land "Smythe Shoulder"

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