As the Space Program Manager at NASA headquarters, Dr. Adriana Ocampo has many responsibilities including being the New Frontiers lead program executive. This program encompasses a variety of projects including the Juno mission to Jupiter, the New Horizons mission to Pluto, and a recently selected asteroid sample return mission entitled OSIRIS-REx. She is also the Lead Venus scientist and is responsible for the Venus Exploration Advisory Group which has been chartered to develop science goals for the exploration of Venus being planned by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency’s Venus Express Mission and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Venus Climate Orbiter.
Before joining NASA’s headquarters, Ocampo spent 32 years working at the Jet Propulsion Lab starting as a volunteer when she was in high school and continuing during the summers while she was completing her education. During her time at JPL she worked as part of the Imaging Team on the Viking mission to Mars where she was involved in data analysis of Mars images and sequence planning for the observations of the moons Phobos and Deimos. Continuing her work with exploring the inner planets she was the Thermal Emission Spectrometer instrument science representative for the Mars Observer Project and was a co-investigator in the Hermes proposal to explore the planet Mercury.
She has worked on various projects dealing with the outer planets as well, including being part of the Navigation and Mission Planning Team for the Voyager mission and working in Flight Projects Mission Operations as a science coordinator to the Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometers used as part of the Galileo mission to Jupiter. In this role she was responsible for the science observations and analysis of the information gathered about Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Besides her work exploring the solar system she was also the first to recognize that a ring of sinkholes found in the Yucatan peninsula was related to a buried impact crater. She has conducted multiple geological expeditions to this, the Chicxulub impact crater site to try to understand the role of large impacts in Earth’s history including potentially the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Written by Angela Goad