Alejandro Soto

A Planetary Scientist and Aerospace Engineer

I am a Research Scientist at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), where I work in the Planetary Science Directorate in Boulder, CO. I study the climate dynamics of terrestrial atmospheres through the use atmospheric models of varying complexity, including general circulation models and mesoscale models. The focus of my research includes the current Titan climate and the ancient Martian climate.

More details, including my curriculum vitae, a publications list, and a news blog, can be found at my personal website.

Climate Dynamics of Atmospheric Collapse on Mars

Due to the relatively high condensation temperature of carbon dioxide, the Martian atmosphere, which is 95% carbon dioxide, can completely condense onto the planetary surface under the right conditions. Most of my PhD thesis work focused on understanding how these conditions for global scale condensation of the atmosphere, often called atmospheric collapse, are a function of carbon dioxide inventory, planetary obliquity, solar luminosity, and atmospheric heat transport. I have published this work in Icarus.

Hydrology of Terrestrial Planets

Though the existence and nature of an atmospheric hydrology varies greatly in our solar system, I am trying to understand how the various types of rainfall and groundwater are related between the different terrestrial planets. So far, my work has focused on Mars and Titan.

Spaceflight Experiences

In four years working at JPL I experienced the entire flight project development cycle, from preliminary design to launch. I worked on advanced concept design, technology development, instrument design, science operations, and instrument/payload system engineering, as a junior member on large teams as well as leader on small teams. My projects included: Pluto Kuiper Express, Europa Orbiter, Solar Probe, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Deep Impact, MARVEL (a Mars Scout proposal), and the Terrestrial Planet Finder Coronagraph. My first flight mission, however, was the OPAL spacecraft, which was designed and built at Stanford by students in the Space Systems Development Laboratory (SSDL). I participated in the final phases of assembly and test, including system level testing. OPAL was launched in January 2000.