ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration
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NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility

RGCPS History

The Space Photography Laboratory (SPL) was established with the move of Dr. Ronald Greeley to Arizona State University in 1977 from NASA-Ames Research Center. SPL collections were based on materials he obtained as a Planetary Geology Principal Investigator and as a member of the Viking Orbiter science team. Planetary material included images of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, and Earth (for various areas in which field studies were conducted). The SPL was originally organized as a "branch" facility, drawing principally on NASA's Regional Planetary Image Facility (RPIF) at the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, AZ. The ASU SPL was later designated a full RPIF by NASA to respond to the growing Planetary Geoscience program at ASU.

In 1981, the Image Processing Facility (IPF) was established as part of the SPL, adding the capability to work with digital data and to produce high-quality film-recorded images. A photographic darkroom was made part of the planetary facilities to enable hardcopy production for use in research and to maintain the collections of SPL. In the early 1980s, ASU was one of the few universities capable of working with digital planetary images. This capability was important for recruiting graduate students to ASU for advanced degrees. The IPF was based on hardware and software adapted from the design used by the U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff through the help and advice of the Astrogeology Branch Chief, Dr. Larry Soderblom. Improvements and upgrades have been made in the ensuing years, drawing on advice from the U.S.G.S. and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In association with NASA and the ASU Planetary Geology Group, the Planetary Geology Laboratory was established on ASU's Tempe campus, along with an atmospheric boundary-layer wind tunnel and a vortex generator, to conduct research on aeolian processes. The SPL collection contains the records and data from the Planetary Geology Laboratory and similar group research from the ASU Planetary Aeolian Laboratory at NASA-Ames Research Center near San Francisco, CA. The California facility has two wind tunnels that simulate the surface pressures on Mars and Venus.

Prof. Ronald Greeley was the Director of the SPL until he passed away in 2011. Assistant Research Professor Dr. David A Williams is the current director of the facility, now renamed the Ronald Greeley Center for Planetary Studies. The RGCPS is under the administration of the School of Earth and Space Exploration (Prof. Kip Hodges, Chairperson) in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Prof. David Young, Dean), at Arizona State University, and is partly supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs (Prof. Jonathan Fink).

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