2019 Vaden W. Miles Memorial Lecture

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"Surprises in the Saturn System:  Cassini Mission Highlights"

Linda Spilker

Cassini Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Cassini mission’s findings revolutionized our understanding of Saturn, its complex rings, the amazing assortment of moons and the planet’s dynamic magnetic environment.  The robotic spacecraft arrived in 2004 after a 7-year flight from Earth, dropped a parachuted probe named Huygens to study the atmosphere and surface of Saturn’s big moon Titan, and commenced making astonishing discoveries until the mission ended with a fiery plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September 2017. 

Key discoveries include icy jets shooting from the tiny moon Enceladus from a liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust, and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons and methane rain on Saturn’s giant moon Titan.  These Cassini findings have fundamentally altered many of our concepts of where life might be found in our own solar system and beyond.  This presentation highlights the Cassini mission’s most intriguing discoveries.

BIOSKETCH: Dr. Linda Spilker is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who has participated in NASA and international planetary missions for over 40 years.  Spilker’s mission roles include mission leadership as well as design, planning, operation and scientific data analysis. As Cassini Project Scientist Dr. Spilker leads a team of over 300 international scientists. She has worked in a science role on the Cassini project for 30 years and is a Co-I with the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer team.  She previously worked on the Voyager mission for 12 years.  She also conducts independent research on the origin and evolution of planetary ring systems and supports proposals and concept studies for new missions to the outer planets.   She enjoys yoga and hiking in National Parks, including her favorite park, Yosemite.  She is married, with three daughters and seven grandchildren.

Spilker received her PhD summa cum laude from UCLA in 1992 in Geophysics and
Space Physics while also working at JPL. She has received a number of awards including a NASA Outstanding Public Leadership Medal and two NASA Exceptional Service Medals.


2:45    Refreshments

3:00    Awards presentation

3:45    Lecture

Law School Auditorium
471 W. Palmer
Detroit, MI 48202

For more information about this event, please contact Robert Harr at 577-2677 or robert.harr@wayne.edu.

Submissions for this form have closed on March 28, 2019 at 12:00 am.