David Morrison is the Senior Scientist of the new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), located in the NASA Research Park at Ames Research Center. The Lunar Science Institute will link competitively-selected science teams across the nation working together to help lead the agency’s research activities related to NASA’s lunar exploration goals. SSERVI research includes studies of the Moon (including lunar samples), from the Moon, and/or on the Moon. Morrison also continues as the Senior Scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, where he participates in a variety of research programs in astrobiology — the study of the living universe. From 1996-2001 he was the Director of Astrobiology and Space Research at Ames, managing research programs in the space, life, and earth sciences.Dr. Morrison received his Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University and has spent most of his career working in planetary science. Prior to joining NASA he was Professor of Astronomy at the University of Hawaii, where he also directed the 3-meter NASA Infrared Telescope Facility of Mauna Kea Observatory and served for two years as University Vice Chancellor for Research. He has been an investigator on the Mariner 10, Voyager, CRAF, Galileo, and Kepler space missions. Internationally known for his research on the solar system, he is the author of more than 155 technical papers and has published a dozen books, including the leading undergraduate college text in planetary science. His research accomplishments include demonstration of the uniform high surface temperature of Venus, the discovery that Neptune has a large internal heat source while its “twin” Uranus does not, determination of the surface composition of Pluto (methane ice), first ground-based measurements of the heat flow from Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io, discovery of the fundamental division of the asteroids into dark (primitive) and light (stony) classes, and the first quantitative estimate of the cosmic impact hazard. As a founder of the multidisciplinary field of astrobiology, Morrison was also co-chair of the first NASA Astrobiology Roadmap workshop and report.
Morrison is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the California Academy of Sciences. He chaired the 1991 NASA study of impact hazards that recommended that a Spaceguard Survey be carried out to search for potentially threatening asteroids and comets, and in 1995 he received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for this work. In 1996 NASA awarded him a second Outstanding Leadership Medal for his contributions to the Galileo mission to Jupiter and its satellites. He has served as Councilor of the American Astronomical Society, Chair of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society, President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Chair of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and both President of Commission 16 (Planets and Satellites) and of the Working Group on Near Earth Objects of the International Astronomical Union. He is recipient of the Dryden Medal for research of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Sagan Medal of the American Astronomical Society for public communication, and the Klumpke-Roberts award of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for contributions to science education. Asteroid 2410 Morrison is named in his honor.