Dave at the top of Mount St. Helens, one of the most active volcanoes in the Solar System. Mt. Rainier can be seen in the distance.
Credit: David Baker
Dr. David Baker explores extreme stuff on Earth and other planets: violent thunderstorms on Earth, bizarre features in the atmospheres of Venus and Jupiter, and the potential for dangerous dust devils near the landing site of the Mars Phoenix spacecraft. As a research scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Dave successfully launched high-tech weather balloons in the Marshall Islands. He currently serves as Associate Professor and Chair of the Physics Department at Austin College. A recipient of multiple teaching awards, Dave routinely leads adventure-oriented science courses to remote places in Patagonia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Australia, Peru, and the Galapagos — students have been known to camp overnight outside the administration building to enroll in these most extreme courses.
Todd at home in Southern California, one of Earth's most tectonically active regions.
Credit: Babette Sparr
Dr. Todd Ratcliff grew up in rural Ohio where the magnificent views of the pristine night skies fueled his interests in space and led to his journey to become a scientist. Since that time, his work has covered a wide range of Solar System topics. As an undergraduate, he participated in a NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) investigation of the requirements for building a landing/launch facility on the Moon. His Ph.D. research investigated the surprisingly different behaviors of the hot, active interiors of Earth, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter's moon Io. Now at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Todd helps spacecraft figure out where they need to go by determining and predicting the precise location of Earth in space. Using data from lasers bounced off mirrors placed on the Moon by Apollo astronauts, he also strives to understand the enigmatic interior structure of the Moon.