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ASC Science Educators and guest authors exploring our world and the science and technology that connects us

 

ADRIANA OCAMPO by Molly Hornbuckle, Marketing Coordinator

Space exploration was my passion from a very young age, and I knew I wanted to be part of it. I would dream and design space colonies while sitting atop the roof of my family's home in Argentina.

Growing up, you may have been told to “reach for the stars” to achieve your goals. For Adriana Ocampo, this became a way of life.

At age fifteen, her family moved to the U.S., and her first question after landing was “where is NASA?” She quickly found a way to volunteer with and later work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and continued to work there while she attended California State University at Los Angeles for her bachelor’s in geology then California State University, Northridge, for her master’s in planetary geology.

While studying satellite images of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula in 1989, Adriana’s team discovered the Chicxulub impact crater, which formed from the impact that may have caused the extinction of more than half of the Earth’s species, including the dinosaurs!

She wrote her master’s and Ph.D. theses on this crater (picture from Science). The explosion that created Chicxulub, a more than 110 mile wide crater, likely involved a hit from an object about six miles across, releasing as much energy as 100 trillion tons of TNT or more than a billion times the energy released by the atom bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On one of the expeditions she led to the Chicxulub site, her research group discovered two new sites that consisted of two layers of material, called ejecta, that were thrown out by the impact and flowed like lava. It’s an extremely rare occurrence on Earth, and these “ejecta lobes” were the first to be observed directly.

But rocks on Earth aren’t her only focus as a researcher… Adriana has also been involved in a number of NASA planetary science projects, including the Juno mission to Jupiter, the New Horizons mission to Pluto, and the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. She’s even the lead Venus scientist involved with the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group to develop strategic plans and assessments for the exploration of Venus.

Adriana once said she was raised to believe you can do anything you want with effort, time, and persistence. I’d like to think she’s living proof that you can, indeed, reach for the stars.

- Molly Hornbuckle, Marketing Coordinator

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Posted by Molly Hornbuckle at 3:30 PM
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