Looking Forward to the 2016 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
If it's March, it's time for LPSC, the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The 2016 LPSC runs from March 21 to 25; I'll be attending the first three days of it. LPSC is one of two large annual conferences that focus on planetary science. It emphasizes planetary geology -- the mineralogy, petrology, geomorphology, geophysics, and geochemistry of solid worlds -- as opposed to planetary astronomy, which receives a heavier emphasis at the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting every October.
With as many as five parallel sessions, all on planetary geology, conflicts are inevitable; I always want to clone myself. On Monday morning alone I have to choose between Curiosity, Dawn, and MESSENGER. In the afternoon, the choice is between Chang'e 3, New Horizons, and Curiosity. (Though if the past is any guide, the State Department will narrow that choice by failing to grant visas to the Chinese scientists in time for them to attend to give their talks.) There are two missions that are doing press conferences at the meeting: New Horizons on Monday, and Dawn on Tuesday. Apart from the subjects that I need to follow in order to report on ongoing missions, there are certain people whose talks I always try to attend because they are fantastic speakers who never fail to educate me.
Not everything that happens at LPSC is science. On Monday evening, there will be the usual "NASA Night," where Jim Green (head of science missions at NASA) and Jonathan Rall (head of the grant programs that fund most NASA researchers) will talk about NASA's current and future plans, and listen to scientists' questions and comments. Our own Casey Dreier will be hosting a followup conversation in Waterway 6 during the lunch break on Tuesday on "The 2017 NASA Budget: The Planetary Community Response and Your Q&A". In addition to The Planetary Society, representatives of the American Geophysical Union, Division of Planetary Sciences, and Geological Society of America will also be there.
The ultimate reason to attend meetings is to see people -- to catch up with friends from grad school, to meet face-to-face with colleagues I interact with virtually, and to make new connections among scientists and trainees doing interesting research. It'll be a busy, but fun, few days!