This year’s program will feature the following special sessions:
New Horizons at Pluto: The Pluto system was recently explored by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which made its closest approach to the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015. Pluto’s surface is found to be remarkably diverse, and its wide range of surface expressions and long-term activity raises fundamental questions about how small planets can have active processes billions of years after their formation. The geology of Pluto’s large moon Charon is also surprisingly diverse, displaying tectonics and evidence for a heterogeneous crustal composition, and its small satellites Hydra and Nix have higher albedos than expected. Presented in this session will be an overview of the New Horizons flyby, payload, and results.
Ceres Unveiled: What We Have Learned from Dawn: Results from the first three orbit phases of the Dawn mission, along with initial results from the lowest-altitude orbit, will be presented, detailing the geological, geochemical, and geophysical evolution of Ceres and its significance for early solar system conditions and processes.
NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division Facilities: As NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division (PSD) is evolving how it deals with funded facilities, it is important to identify current facilities, how they are working, and the extent to which they serve the science needs of the broader planetary community. NASA’s PSD will hold a special session on this topic and is inviting members of the community to submit abstracts for oral or poster presentation, describing their facility, its capabilities, its uses, and its potential service to the community at large. This process is initiated in the effort to assess best practices and identify a series of lessons learned, as well as provide information for future plans and strategies leading to the best balance of science across the PSD portfolio.