Dr. James B. Garvin is the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Chief Scientist. He provides strategic advice and analysis on the scientific priorities and directions to the Center Director and senior leadership, as well as to NASA Headquarters. As a veteran Earth and planetary scientist within NASA in a career that has spanned more than 37 years, Dr. Garvin brings his experience with interdisciplinary science and instrumentation in helping to direct the scientific trajectory of the Center. Prior to coming to Goddard, Garvin served as the NASA Chief Scientist, advising three separate Administrators on issues ranging from science strategies associated with the Vision for Space Exploration to those involved in rebalancing the NASA science portfolio. In addition, Dr. Garvin served as the chief scientist for Mars exploration from 2000 until 2004 and spearheaded the development of the scientific strategy that led NASA to select such missions as the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix polar lander, and the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity rover). He received two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals for his work with the science behind the Mars Exploration Program. He is also the recipient of three Presidential Rank Awards for his contributions to science at NASA spanning his career.
Dr. Garvin's scientific expertise spans several elements of Earth and Planetary sciences. He served as one of the founding fathers of the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) experiment and led the scientific investigation of impact cratering processes for Mars using MOLA topographic data. Garvin also served as the chief scientist (PI) on the two flights of the Shuttle Laser Altimeter (SLA) experiment on STS-72 and STS-85 missions, from which the first measurements of tree heights from space were achieved. He has been an active co-investigator on the Canadian Space Agency's RADARSAT series of missions (including RCM), using the SAR images from this mission to document the 1996 catastrophic outburst flood in Iceland and the landscape dynamics on newly-formed oceanic islands in Tonga (HTHH 2021-2022). His scientific expertise includes the geology and geophysics of impact craters, the geomorphology of oceanic islands, and the geometric properties of sedimentary systems on Mars, Venus, and the Moon. He has participated in expeditions to various terrestrial impact sites including the Zhamanshin impact crater in Kazakhstan and he has led more than a dozen aircraft laser remote sensing campaigns to such targets as Iceland, Azores, Meteor Crater (Arizona), Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and islands in the Caribbean. He served as NASA's Project Scientist for the Earth System Science Pathfinder program during the first five years of its existence during which GRACE and Calipso/Cloudsat were selected.
Dr. Garvin also led a team of scientists who employed the Hubble Space Telescope to explore the lunar surface at ultraviolet wavelengths in search of potential resources in support of human exploration of the Moon. He has served NASA as a member of Sally Ride's post-Challenger leadership team, and chaired the 1999-2001 NASA Decadal Planning Team (for Exploration), as well as the requirements definition team for the 2008 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission as NASA Program Scientist. During his career, he has been a Co-Investigator on the Mars Observer, Mars Global Surveyor, NEAR-Shoemaker, Radarsat-1,2/RCM, Mars Curiosity Rover, OSIRIS-REx, and ENVISAT missions. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and other popular articles about space exploration of Mars, Venus, and the Moon. Presently, he is Principal Investigator of the recently-selected DAVINCI mission to Venus, slated for launch in June 2029, and the first in situ mission to Venus since 1985.
Dr. Garvin earned his Ph.D in the Geological Sciences from Brown University in 1984 under the mentorship of Professors J. W. Head III and T. A. Mutch. He also received an MS from Stanford University in Computer Sciences and a second MS from Brown in Planetary Geosciences. He graduated with highest honors from Brown University in 1978 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 2005, he was awarded the prestigious William Rogers award recipient (Brown University) for his contributions to society as a graduate of Brown.
Dr. Garvin has frequently appeared on television in association with space exploration and he was a guest on "Late Night with David Letterman" in January 2004, as well as on the Discovery Channel's "Alien Planet". He lives with his wife Cindy and their two children in Columbia, MD, where he enjoys walking in the woods with his family and dog. According to his family, he was "hooked on space at birth" and has been collecting rocks and space data ever since. As a career NASA scientist, he longs for the time when he can wander across the wilderness of Iceland (or Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai) with his family searching for Mars or Venus on Earth.