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Grant, John

Fellowship Advisor National Air and Space Museum staff

Planetary geology and process geomorphology.

Background And Education

Education And Training

Professional Biography

  • Dr. John A. Grant, III, joined the Smithsonian in the fall of 2000 as a Geologist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum.  He is on the science teams for the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, and the InSight lander missions. Curiosity and InSight landed on Mars in August 2012 and November 2018, respectively. He serves as a Long Term Planner responsible for shaping strategic decisions about Curiosity activities and is a member of the Geology Group on InSight. He was also a member of the Science Team for the Mars Exploration Rovers. Starting in 2002 and until the mission ended in 2019, he served as a Science Operations Working Group Chairs responsible for leading science planning on the rovers.  Dr. Grant is also a co-investigator on the HiRISE camera flying on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. He co-chaired the science community process for selecting the landing sites for the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers the Curiosity rover, and the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.  


    Currently, he is working day-to-day operations on the Curiosity rover, studying the surface evolution around the InSight lander, and targeting the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to understand landscape evolution and image and map possible future landing sites on the Red Planet.  He is also developing a ground-penetrating radar instrument for possible future deployment on a Mars or Moon rover. He has been interested in Mars ever since reading Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles as a child.


    Dr. Grant attended the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh and received his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, in geology in 1982 and went on to earn a master’s and doctorate in geology at the University of Rhode Island (1986) and Brown University (1990), respectively.  His dissertation focused on the degradation of meteorite impact craters on Earth and Mars and remains interested in understanding processes responsible for shaping planetary landscapes. 


    After a two-year position at NASA Headquarters, where he served as Program Scientist for the Mars Global Surveyor and postponed Sample Return missions, Dr. Grant then accepted his current position at the Smithsonian Institution.  He is currently a Senior Geologist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum.


    Dr. Grant also maintains a strong connection to the classroom and began as a lecturer at BrownUniversity in 1990.  Since then he has held several professorial posts at both Rhode Island College and SUNY College at Buffalo (New York), where he was an Associate Professor.  He has authored or contributed to numerous articles in many industry publications, including Geology, Geophysical Research Letters, Geomorphology and Science magazine. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and was awarded the G. K. Gilbert award by the Society in 2017 “for outstanding contributions to the solution of fundamental problems in planetary geology in the broadest sense”.


    Dr. Grant’s other interests include gardening, biking, ice hockey, and collecting beer.

Research And Grants

Research Overview

  • Funded Grants/Contracts Managed in FY2020:


    Title:            "Constraining the Geology and Near Surface Properties of the InSight Landing Site"

    Agency:        NASA Discovery Program, InSight Participating Scientist Program/Bobby Fogel,

                    , (202) 358-2289

    Period:          8/30/2018-8/29/22

    Months:        2.0


    Title:            "Defining the Geologic History and Record of Potentially Habitable Environments in
                         Gale Crater"

    Agency:        NASA PSD/JPL, Jeff Simmonds, 

    Period:          4/1/16-9/30/21

    Months:        3.0


    Title:            "High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) for Mars" (Alfred

                         McEwen is PI, John Grant is Co-I)

    Agency:        NASA Mars Exploration Program/University of Arizona, Michael S. Kelley,

                    , (202) 358-0607

    Period:          11/1/01-9/30/21

    Months:        2.0


    Title:            "In Situ Ceochronology for the Next Decade"  (Barbara Cohen PI, Grant Co-I)

    Agency:        NASA Planetary Mission Concept Studies, Contact: TBD

    Period:          11/1/2020-5/31/20

    Months:        0.05


    Title:            "Fresh Shallow Valleys and Pollywog Craters: Insight into Post-Noachian Fluvial 
                         Activity on Mars" (Sharon Purdy PI,   Grant Collaborator)

    Agency:        NASA MDAP, Contact: Mitchell Schulte,, (202


    Period:          11/1/2020-10/31/23

    Months:        0.05


    Title:            "Preparing a Geologic Map in Margaritifer Terra: A Community Resource to 

                         Facilitate Future Scientific Investigations on Mars" (Sharon Purdy PI, Grant Co-I)

    Agency:        NASA PDART Program

    Period:          7/1/2020-6/30/23

    Months:        0.05


    Title:             "Investigation of Sedimentary and Altered Deposits in and around Ladon Basin"
                         (Catherine Weitz is PI,  John Grant is Co-I)

     Agency:          NASA MDAP, Contact: Mitchell Schulte,, (202


    Period:          6/01/2017-5/31/2020


    Grants/Contracts Submitted in FY20 and Pending Review:


    Title:             "Defining the Geologic History and Three-Dimensional Distribution of High-Potential
                         Astrobiological Settings in Jezero Crater"

    Agency:        NASA Planetary Mission Concept Studies, Contact: Mitchell Schulte, 
                     , (202-358-0780)

    Period:          7/1/2020-9/30/23

    Months:        3.0-2.4

Investigator On


Selected Publications