Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame
Peter Smith was born December 2, 1947 in New York and attended the University of California Berkley where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1969. He received a Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Arizona in 1977 and 2009. Dr. Smith began working as a research scientist at the Lunar and Planetary lab at the University of Arizona in 1978. There he has worked on projects providing cameras and optical equipment for NASA space probes for the last 30 years. These projects include the CASSINI probe, Mars Polar Lander, Mars Pathfinder, Beagle 2, and the Japanese MUSES-Cnear-earth asteroid mission. In 2003 the Phoenix mission to Mars received NASA approval with Smith as the principal investigator.
The Phoenix mission was the first Mars exploratory mission to be led and controlled from a public university. The probe was launched on August 4, 2007 and spent the next nine months en route to Mars, finally landing on the planet on May 25, 2008. The lander was controlled by Smith and his team from a mission control center on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson. In July 2008, NASA announced that samples tested by the probe had for the first time proven the presence of water ice on Mars. Smith’s name will be forever linked to the confirmation that there is water on Mars.