On Tuesday, Dr. Jim Green was named NASA’s new Chief Scientist, succeeding Dr. Gale Allen. Green, who served as the director of the space agency’s Planetary Science Division for 12 years and has worked for NASA since 1980, will start serving as the principal scientific advisor to NASA senior staff on May 1. During his decades of work in aerospace, he used science fiction to inspire his work, pushed for human exploration efforts of Mars, and even helped in the creation of the The Martian.
Here are a few of Green’s delightfully peculiar quotes on the crossover of science fiction and science fact, Mars exploration, and alien life.
On What Inspired His Career:
- “I was a teen in the sixties so consequently I watched the original Star Trek from the very first episode and it was like nothing else on TV,” said Green in a NASA interview in 2015. “[At the] same time I was working in an observatory. So the science fact and the science fiction part was just a wonderful combination for me so when I went to college I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”
On the Future of Space Travel:
- “I think the generation today is the Mars generation,” he told Inverse in 2015. “For me, I’m in the Apollo generation. I watched the Apollo lunar landing. I know Buzz, I met Neil. All those kind of things are in my era, but in reality, when we landed Curiosity down on Mars, we had the world’s attention. It was just unbelievable and I immediately recognized there is a new generation in town, and it’s the Mars generation.”
- “Mars is indeed a destination for humans,” Green said in a JoBlo interview in 2015. “We have to go to Mars. This is important for us, a single planet species might not last long. If we’re going to survive and flourish as a species in the future we need to consider making this kind of trek and Mars is the place.”
On Martian Life:
- “Mars has all the ingredients necessary for life,” he said in a TED Talk in November 2015. “In its past perhaps two-thirds of its northern hemisphere was an ocean it had liquid water on its surface, it has organics, it has all the right conditions. So what are we going to do next? We’re going to launch a series of missions to begin that search for life on Mars and now is more appealing than ever before.”
- “We now recognize that habitable zones are not just around stars, they can be around giant planets too,” Green told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. “We are finding out the solar system is really a soggy place. The science community is making enormous progress and I’ve told my team I’m planning to be the director of planetary science when we discover life in the solar system.”
On Martian Farming:
- “It’s actually easier to grow food on Mars now than when Andy Weir was writing [The Martian],” Green told Inverse. “The [Martian] soil’s got nitrates in it, which is great for fertilizer. It’s got far more moisture in the air. It’s got a lot of water actually in the soils. So in fact there’s a rather extended underground network of water on Mars. All of that makes it easier to get the resources to grow things on Mars.”
On Creating an Artificial Martian Atmosphere:
- “A greatly enhanced Martian atmosphere, in both pressure and temperature, that would be enough to allow significant surface liquid water would also have a number of benefits for science and human exploration in the 2040s and beyond,” Green told Phys.org in 2016. “Much like Earth, an enhanced atmosphere would: allow larger landed mass of equipment to the surface, shield against most cosmic and solar particle radiation, extend the ability for oxygen extraction, and provide ‘open air’ greenhouses to exist for plant production, just to name a few.”