TEAM FIRE: Kelsey Young on Planetary Field Geology

Our final curator for this epic week of #NASAFireandICE is Dr Kelsey Young (@rockdocyoung), a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre.

 kyoungI’m a field geologist working in volcanic and impact cratering environments, focusing on how these processes work both on our planet and on the Moon and Mars. By conducting fieldwork on Earth at ‘planetary analog sites’, or places on Earth that look like other planets, we can understand how other planets have evolved over time. Specifically, I use field portable instruments to determine how they will be useful both in terrestrial field geology and in the human exploration of other planets. These instruments, like portable spectrometers that reveal rocks’ chemistry in just a few seconds, empower field geologists to unravel geologic histories and to select the most valuable samples. Through operational testing in analog environments, we can determine how future human exploration will look and what technologies we need to design now to prepare for the future.

Understanding the processes that formed the landscapes I love exploring led to me looking up at the Moon to ask the same questions of the landscapes I saw there. To my surprise I found there was much to be learned by doing fieldwork here on Earth that would inform us about what lies beyond. My job enables me to do fieldwork in exotic and complex environments (like Iceland) while also pushing me to visualize how the same processes (volcanic flows, impact cratering, and more) shape other planets. No two days are ever the same, and the constant challenges are what keeps things interesting.

I initially became interested in geology after growing up going on lots of family hiking trips and wondering how the terrains we were hiking in formed and evolved over time. When I discovered during college that I could study geology on other planets, I was hooked. No two days are the same in my job and that’s what I love and what keeps things interesting!

I firmly believe exploration is at the core of us as human beings. The fundamental desire of humankind to push the boundaries of our knowledge, to set eyes and boots on ground that has never before been seen or walked on, and to learn more about the fundamental scientific processes that have gotten us to where we are today is one of things that makes and shapes us, and I’m thrilled to play even the smallest role in that. We will once again send people beyond our planet and beyond Low Earth Orbit, and that’s something to strive for and be passionate about. What we’re doing this week in Iceland will prepare humankind to travel to the Moon and beyond!

My ideal day off would start with a hike and end with cooking dinner and a glass of wine, preferably with friends and family. I can’t get enough of hiking, scuba diving, spin class, or really anything that keeps me active! That, and cooking (and eating) delicious food.

Please welcome Kelsey to #NASAFireandIce week!

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