Kenneth Edward Herkenhoff, Ph.D.

Biography

Ken Herkenhoff has been interested in astrophotography since he was a child, and now specializes in imaging Mars.  His love of the outdoors led him to study geology and earn a Bachelor’s degree in that subject at the University of California, Berkeley in 1981.  After working for a few months in a geostatistics group at Fluor Mining and Metals, he returned to school to study planetary science at Caltech.  He recalibrated the Mariner 9 cameras and used the improved images to study the south polar layered deposits on Mars, which are thought to record climate variations on Mars that are similar to ice ages on Earth.  He earned a doctorate in Planetary Sciences at Caltech in 1989.

Ken was a post-doctoral researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena for two years, where he continued geologic mapping of the south polar region of Mars and studied the photometry of Mars and its satellites.  He was hired as a research scientist at JPL in 1991 and became involved in several planetary missions, including Mars Observer, Cassini, and Mars Pathfinder.  The success of Mars Pathfinder and its Sojouner rover led to his involvement in the Mars Exploration Rover missions as science lead for the Microscopic Imagers.  These larger rovers landed on Mars in January 2004; Opportunity explored Mars until a global dust storm ended its mission in 2018.  In 1998 he moved from JPL to the U. S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he currently works as a research geologist.   Ken is a Co-Investigator on the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, serving as Polar Geology science theme lead.  He is also a Co-Investigator on the Mars Science Laboratory Mastcam/MAHLI/MARDI and ChemCam science teams; MSL landed on August 5, 2012 and is now exploring Gale crater on Mars.

Ken has published hundreds of papers and abstracts as first or co-author on various topics including the impact origin of Upheaval Dome (Utah), light scattering in Mars’ atmosphere, and Phobos photometry.  But most of his work has focused on the design, calibration, and operation of cameras on Mars spacecraft.