Dr. Benton C. Clark, III

A Brief Biography

Dr. Benton C Clark, III - Honorary Lifetime Member

Dr. Benton C Clark, III - Honorary Lifetime Member

Dr. Benton C. Clark (Ben to his many friends and colleagues), has more than 40 years of experience in future-mission design, spacecraft design and operations, planetary science, space radiation, and development of advanced space instrumentation. He spent most of his career (37 years) at Lockheed Martin Corporation (formerly Martin Marietta Corp.) and served as Chief Scientist for Space Exploration Systems.  In mid 2008, several months after his AME award, he retired from a long and distinguished career with that organization and continues his activities to date with the Space Science Institute (Boulder, CO).

Ben conceived and developed the x-ray fluorescence spectrometers for the first geochemical analyses of Martian soil onboard the Viking landers. He also helped develop the lightflash detector and sunshade for the Particle Impact Analyzer (PIA) experiment for the Giotto mission. He currently serves as a co-investigator for the Cassini-Huygens mission, as well as the Stardust and Genesis Discovery missions.

Dr. Clark introduced the concept of cometary particulates and formation of comet ponds as an enabling step for the abiotic origin of life. He chairs the External Advisory Committee for the NASA Center for Research and Training in Exobiology at the University of California San Diego and Salk Institute. He has received the NASA Public Service Medal, the Wright Brothers Award, the Air Force Service Medal, and has been selected Inventor of the Year for Martin Marietta Corporation (now Lockheed Martin) and Author of the Year for Martin Marietta Astronautics.

His prolific paper record (more than 130 publications, reports, abstracts and presentations) has covered topics as diverse as instrumentation, planetary missions, radiation, space science, planetary geochemistry, exobiology and other fields of research and development. He has had a lifelong interest in potential extraterrestrial life which was heightened by interacting with the biology investigators on the Viking missions.  He has made many contributions addressing various aspects of potential life chemistries and biological scenarios in his writings.

Scion of an Oklahoma family, Ben is notable for many things…the breadth of his intellect, his keen grasp of the science and engineering aspects of planetary missions, but perhaps most importantly for his kindness to students, colleagues and friends.  We salute him for his long service to the exploration of space and the great contributions to the science of other planets especially Mars.  And we are grateful to count him amongst our friends and colleagues in the Mars community.

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