Tim Schofield  1964-71                                  Home

 

After O'Levels Tim specialized in the sciences (Maths, Physics, and Chemistry) and after A'Levels was accepted to read Physics at Balliol College, Oxford. (WGS contemporaries at Oxford were Paul Griffiths (Geography, Keble) and Gerald Lees (Modern Languages, Christ Church). He graduated in the summer of 1974 and began a Post Graduate degree in Atmospheric Physics also at the University of Oxford, in what is now the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Planetary Physics. The core of his thesis work was a collaboration between Oxford and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, developing components for an instrument that flew to Venus on the NASA Pioneer Venus Orbiter in 1978. This instrument was a small infrared radiometer called VORTEX designed to map temperature, clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere of Venus from an orbit round the planet by measuring infrared radiation from the atmosphere over a broad range of wavelengths. Tim received his Doctorate from Oxford in 1980, and spent the next few years as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant at Oxford, working on the analysis of data from VORTEX. Both the instrument development and data analysis work involved frequent trips to California.

As a result of the VORTEX collaboration Tim got an offer to work on a new atmospheric instrument for a Mars Mission at JPL, and left the UK with his young family early in 1984 for California. He became the Deputy-Principal Investigator on a more ambitious atmospheric sounding instrument called PMIRR, again a collaboration with Oxford. This instrument used technology developed in Oxford for terrestrial upper atmosphere weather satellites to map temperature, dust, ice clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere of Mars. PMIRR flew on the ill-fated Mars Observer spacecraft in 1992 and was lost with the spacecraft 3-days from Mars, when it is thought that fuel lines burst during pressurization and the spacecraft spun out of control. PMIRR was rebuilt and flew again on the 1998 Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO) spacecraft which was also lost due to a navigation error which caused the spacecraft to fly into the Mars atmosphere and burn up. Fortunately, there were some successes in this period. Tim was the science lead for the meteorological instrument package on the Pathfinder Lander, which landed on Mars in 1997. This instrument returned atmospheric pressure, temperature and wind measurements from the surface until the lander batteries failed after 80 days, well beyond the planned 30-day lifetime of the mission.

After the loss of MCO Tim was involved in a major effort to come up with a smaller instrument that would use new detector technology to recover the science lost with the two PMIRR instruments. This instrument, called the Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) ultimately flew on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2005. MRO was successfully placed into a polar orbit round Mars in 2006, and MCS has been returning atmospheric measurements from Mars continuously for the last 7 years. The success of MCS inspired the development of a similar instrument called Diviner which flew on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2009. Diviner is also an infrared radiometer and has been mapping the thermal properties of the surface of the moon for the last four years, including some of the coldest regions in the solar system found in permanently shaded craters at the lunar poles. Tim is a Co-Investigator on the Diviner instrument but his main efforts are still centered on the MCS investigation