Ryan Anderson is a planetary scientist and developer at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center. Ryan attended the University of Michigan, where he double majored in Physics and Astronomy, and Cornell University where received his PhD in Planetary Science. He conducted a detailed study of Gale crater, the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory Rover (MSL), and is a member of the ChemCam instrument science team. Ryan is also a member of the science team on the SuperCam instrument on the upcoming Mars 2020 rover.  In addition to his research and mission operations, Ryan is passionate about communicating science to the public. He enjoys teaching and public speaking and for several years ran a planetary science-themed blog called The Martian Chronicles, which was one of the founding blogs of the American Geophysical Union blogosphere. Ryan now posts updates on what the MSL rover is up to on the news section of this site, and blogs at his personal website, mostly about non-scientific topics.


  • Ph.D. 2011, Cornell University; Astronomy
  • M.S. 2009, Cornell University; Astronomy
  • B.S. 2006, University of Michigan; General Physics; Honors Astronomy & Astrophysics


2007 - 2011: Graduate Work at Cornell University

  • Investigated methods for improving the accuracy of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) of geologic materials in support of ChemCam for Mars Science Laboratory (MSL).
  • Conducted initial calibration of MSL Mastcam Images and investigated methods for multispectral target classification.
  • Conducted geologic and thermophysical unit mapping of the Gale crater MSL landing site.
  • Wrote IDL tools to search, calibrate, map-project and mosaic Mars Color Imager (MARCI) data.
  • Wrote IDL tools to generate OMEGA spectral parameter maps of Mars, studied potential landing sites for MSL, studied hydrated minerals in N. Meridiani.

2006: NASA Academy (Goddard Space Flight Center)

  • Conducted thermal modeling of vacuum chamber for use in extracting oxygen from lunar regolith with solar vacuum pyrolysis.
  • Member of the trajectory and mission architecture team for the Enceladus Astrobiology and Geophysics Lander Expedition (EAGLE) mission concept study.
  • Invited to present EAGLE study to Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) - Nov 8, 2006

2003 - 2006: Undergraduate Research at University of Michigan

  • Developed an IDL computer model of a two-dimensional gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (2D-GCMS) with planetary science applications. Investigated the use of machine learning and pattern recognition for 2D-GCMS data analysis.
  • Used IDL and IRAF to analyze high resolution emission spectra of a flare on Barnard's Star.

2005: Internship at the Lunar and Planetary Institute

  • Measured fill thickness of buried impact basins using Mars orbital laser altimeter data.

2004: Internship at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

  • Investigated new method for mapping molecular clouds using Spitzer's infrared array camera.


  • 2008-2011 - NASA Graduate Student Research Program Fellow
  • 2010 NASA Mars Exploration Student Travel Award
  • 2007 - Cornell Astronomy Dept. Patten Fellow
  • 2006 - NASA Space Grant Fellow


  • MER Pancam Payload Downlink Lead: 2007 - present
  • MSL Landing Site Selection Workshops: Presenter (2010), attendee (2007, 2008)
  • MSL Landing Site Working Group (LSWG): 2010 - present
  • MSL Mastcam/MAHLI/MARDI team student collaborator: 2008 - 2011
  • NASA Planetary Volcanology Field Workshop Big Island, Hawaii: July 26 - August 2, 2008
  • Mars Analog field trips:
    • Great Sand Dunes National Park - Colorado, USA (2008)
    • Bissett Mine, Gypsumville, East German Creek, Mafekang Quarry - Manitoba, Canada (2008)
    • Northern Arizona (2007, 2009)
  • Icarus referee
  • American Geophysical Union (AGU) – Planetary Sciences
  • American Astronomical Society (AAS) – Division for Planetary Sciences
  • NASA Academy Alumni Association
  • The Planetary Society


  • Anderson, R.B., Bell, J.F. III, Morris, R.V., Clegg, S.M., Wiens, R.C., Humphries, S.D. (2011) Comparing Partial Least Squares and Neural Network Methods for Quantitative Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy of Geological Samples, In prep for Icarus
  • Anderson,R.B., Bell, J.F. III (2010) Geologic mapping and characterization of Gale Crater and implications for its potential as a Mars Science Laboratory landing site, Mars 5, 76-128, doi:10.1555/mars.2010.0004
  • Rice, M., Bell, J.F. III, Cloutis, E.A., Wray, J.J., Herkenhoff, K.E., Sullivan, R. , Johnson, J.R., Anderson, R.B. (2010) Temporal Observations of Bright Soil Exposures at Gusev Crater, Mars, JGR - Planets, doi:10.1029/2010JE003683
  • Paulson, D.B., Allred, J., Anderson, R.B., Cochran, W.D., Hawley, S.L. & Yelda, S. (2006) Optical Spectroscopy of a Flare on Barnard’s Star, ASP, 118, 840, pp. 227-235 doi:10.1086/499497.

Conference Proceedings

  • Anderson, R.B., Morris, R.V., Clegg, S.M., Bell, J.F. III, Humphries, S.D., Wiens, R.C. (2011) A comparison of Multivariate and Pre-Procession Methods for Quantitative Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy of Geologic Samples, LPSC XLII, #1308
  • Graff, T.G., Morris, R.V., Clegg, S.M., Wiens, R.C. and Anderson, R.B. (2011) Dust Removal on Mars Using Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, LPSC XLII, #1916
  • Anderson, R. B., Morris, R.V., Clegg, S.M., Bell, J. F. III, Wiens, R.C., Humphries, S. D. (2010) Multivariate Methods for Predicting Geologic Sample Composition with Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, AGU Fall Meeting, #P33C-1583
  • Anderson, R. B. and Bell, J. F. III (2010) Geomorphology and Inferred Stratigraphy of the Gale Crater Central Mound and Proposed Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site, 1st International Conference on Mars Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, #1547
  • Anderson, R. B. et al. (2010) Partial Least Squares and Neural Networks for Quantitative Calibration of Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) of Geologic Samples. LPSC XLI, #2013.
  • Anderson, R.B., Bell, J.F. III (2009) Geologic Mapping and Characterization of Gale Crater and Implications for its Potential as a Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site, AGU Fall Meeting, #P43D-1459
  • Anderson, R.B., Bell, J.F. III, Milliken, R.E., (2009) Geologic and Thermophysical Unit Mapping of the Proposed Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site and Traverse Path in Gale Crater, LPSC XL, #2030
  • Milliken, R.E., Edgett, K.S., Swayze, G., Clark, R.N., Thomson, B.J., Anderson, R.B., Bell, J.F. III (2009) Clay and Sulfate-Bearing Rocks in a Stratigraphic Sequence in Gale Crater, LPSC XL, p. 1479
  • Anderson, R.B., Bell, J.F. III, (2008) Stratigraphy of Phyllosilicates and Sulfates in Northern Meridiani Planum, Mars, AGU Fall Meeting ,
  • Bell, J. F., Anderson, R. B., Kressler, K., Wolff, M. J., Cantor, B., Science, Operations Teams, M. (2008) Color Mosaics and Multispectral Analyses of Mars Reconnaissance Orbit Mars Color Imager (MARCI) Observations, AGU Fall Meeting, #P32B-08
  • Anderson, R.B., Bell, J.F. III, (2008) OMEGA Regional Maps of Hydrated Minerals in Northern Meridiani Planum, Mars, LPSC XXXIX, No. 1060
  • Anderson,R.B., Kiefer,W.S., Frey,H.V., Roark,J.H., (2006) Morphometry of Large Martian Impact Structures and Implications for Resurfacing Processes on Mars, LPSC XXXVII, No. 2018
  • Anderson, R.B., Megeath, S.T., Meyers, P.C. (2004) Mapping Molecular Clouds Using Spitzer’s InfraRed Array Camera, AAS 205, #140.02.

Teaching Experience

  • Lab and discussion section leader:
    • Astronomy 101/103 - The Nature of the Universe
    • Astronomy 102/104 - Our Solar System
  • Guest Lecturer:
    • Astronomy 1110 - Exploration of Mars
    • Astronomy 2299 - The Search for Life in the Universe
    • Astronomy 109 - Birth of the Universe
  • Field trip leader: Astro 577 - Planetary Surface Processes
  • Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) teaching workshop October 16 & 17, 2008
  • Introductory astronomy tutor at University of Michigan (2003-2006)


  • Writer for AGU blog: The Martian Chronicles (http://blogs.agu.org/martianchronicles/)
  • Contributor to:
    • Web - Universe Today, Ask an Astronomer, Science in my Fiction
    • Print - Michigan Daily, Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell Chronicle
  • Awards:
    • Included in anthology "Open Laboratory 2010: The Best of Science Writing on the Web"
    • Finalist: ScientificBlogging.com University Science Writing Contest
    • Finalist: 3 Quarks Daily 2010 Science Blogging Contest
  • Courses:
    • Communications 566 - Science Communication

Public Speaking and Outreach

(Outreach activities for 2009 through 2011 are not yet recorded here.)


  • Southern Cayuga Astronomy Program (Feb 29, 2008): Public lecture about current and future solar system missions and events
  • Wings of Eagles Discovery Center (Feb 16, 2008): Public lecture about the future of space exploration
  • Mars lab tour for Cortland High School astronomy class (March 6, 2008)
  • Guest Lecture about Life on Mars for Astronomy 299: Life in the Universe (April 10, 2008)
  • Guest lecture about the history and future of Mars exploration for Astronomy 109: The Birth of the Universe (Freshman Writing Seminar) (April 14, 2008)
  • Mars Lab tour for teachers participating in a lab development conference (April 17, 2008)
  • Met with two Science Olympiad students and their coaches to help prepare them for the national competition (topic: Remote Sensing on Mars) (April 17, 2008)
  • Hands-on activities with parents and children for "Take Your Child to Work Day" (April 24, 2008)
  • Lunch with a visiting middle school student interested in a career in space/astronomy (April 24, 2008)
  • Focus for Teens (July 1-3, 2008) - Gave a 90 minute “Mission to the Planets” presentation, allowing students to plan their own robotic mission.
  • Public talk at Kopernik Observatory about Jupiter (July 8, 2008)
  • Sciencenter summer camp (July 9, July 22, Aug 13, 2008) - "Tour of the Universe" presentation
  • Marslab tour (Aug 19, 2008)
  • Mentored high school intern (July and August, 2008)
  • Videographer for the Neptune movement of Holst's "The Planets" - Performed by the Cornell Symphony Orchestra (Oct 11, 2008)
  • Organizer of Women in Science activities at Boynton Middle School (Oct 14, 2008)
  • Center for Astronomy Education (CAE) workshop: "How to Teach Astro 101" (Oct 16 & 17, 2008)
  • Public Talk at Kopernik Observatory about Current Events in the Solar System (October 25, 2008)


  • Southern Cayuga Astronomy Program (Jan 19, 2007): Public lecture about current solar system missions and events
  • Trumansburg Elementary School (Jan 22, 2007): After school program about the solar system
  • Wings of Eagles Discovery Center (Feb 10, 2007): Hands-on activities with children and families
  • Wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun and Cornell Chronicle (Spring 2007) [3D Printing,Sustainable Business,Science in Action]
  • Museum of the Earth - Natural History at Noon (Mar 31, 2007): Public lecture about current solar system missions and events
  • Beverly J. Martin Elementary school - Science Fair (April 5, 2007): Hands on activities
  • Led construction of large "rubber sheet" space-time model (a.k.a. the Spandex Universe)
  • Spandex Universe demonstration to visiting AP physics students (May 31, 2007)
  • Focus for Teens (June 26-29, 2007) - Gave a 90 minute "Mission to the Planets" presentation, allowing students to plan their own robotic mission. Spandex Universe was used in a separate presentation.
  • Sciencenter summer camp (July 18, Aug 1, Aug 15, 2007) - "Tour of the Universe" presentation
  • Mars Lab tours for Rural Schools Institute (July 23-25, 2007)
  • Public talk at Fuertes Observatory (September 21, 2007)
  • Taught Astronomy 101 lab and discussion sections (Sept-Dec 2007)
  • Started a blog: Inescapable Perspective (October 2007)


  • Ask an Astronomer - 3 or more questions per week since September 2006
  • DeWitt Middle School (Nov 1, 2006): After-school program about the solar system