Chief Scientist for Small Body Exploration | NASA
Chief Scientist for Small Body Exploration
Dr. Paul Abell is the Chief Scientist for Small Body Exploration within the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division at the Johnson Space Center. His main areas of interest are physical characterization of near-Earth objects (NEOs) via ground-based and spacecraft observations, examination of NEOs for future robotic and human exploration and identification of potential resources within the NEO population for future in situ utilization. Abell has been studying potentially hazardous asteroids and near-Earth objects for over 15 years. He was a telemetry officer for NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft Near-Infrared Spectrometer team and was a science team member on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Hayabusa near-Earth asteroid sample-return mission. Abell was also a member of the Hayabusa contingency recovery team and participated in the successful recovery of the spacecraft‘s sample return capsule, which returned to Woomera, Australia in June 2010. In the near future, he will be supporting the ongoing activities of the Hayabusa2 mission and aiding the cooperation between Hayabusa2 and NASA’s OSIRIS Rex spacecraft teams as they investigate and sample their respective near-Earth asteroids starting in the summer of 2018.
Since 2006, Abell has been a member of an internal NASA team that is examining the possibility of sending astronauts to NEOs for human missions. In 2009, he became a science team member of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Solar System Collaboration tasked with identifying NEOs for future robotic and human space missions, and is also an investigation team member on both NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) and Near-Earth Object Camera (NEO Cam) proposed planetary defense missions. Asteroid 8139 (1980 UM1) is named Paulabell in recognition of Abell's contributions to NEO research and exploration studies.