National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

James Garvin

“Space on a Sphere”

James Garvin gave a presentation entitled Space on a Sphere. Cameras projected images onto a 3D sphere, as Garvin executed his presentation on the importance of studying Earth, the Moon, and other nearby planets.  One of the first images we saw was the classic image of Earth as seen from space, with water covering the majority of the surface.  Garvin had us reflect on the importance of water on our Earth, and pointed out that Earth is alive and dynamic.  The Earth gives off a special signature of life, and that things change all the time.  The Earth has been captured in many different ways, each showing a different picture of the dynamics on the changing planet.  Some images projected on the sphere showed a biosignature of the Earth, noting the dead zones in some of the oceans. Others showed the distributions of drinking water reservoirs hidden below the surface, essentially taking an MRI of the Earth.  Each of these projections showed the history of the land, which is ultimately influenced by our dynamic sun. 

The next body that was focused on was the moon.  Much of Earth’s history can be shown by looking at the moon’s history.  Topography of the moon shows the millions of years of damage the moon has suffered from by impaction.  Similarly, Mars characteristics can reflect on some of our own history as well.  Mars is now known to be a water planet, with water likely hidden below its surface.  Images of Mars captured by numerous satellites tell us this and much more about the Red planet.

Essentially, Garvin’s message was that the past fifty years of satellite exploration of planets and moons, including our own, have helped us to better understand our changing planet and our changing solar system.  Continued exploration, either human or robotic, can perhaps lead us toward answering several historic questions:  Are we alone?  Where are we going? How did we get here?  Could we be Martians? Studying our past and our future can help us answer these questions and improve our lives along the way.