B.S. Aeronautical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute
and State University
M.S. Physics, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Ph.D. Engineering Mechanics, Old Dominion University
Dr. Tolson has over fifty years of research, management, and educational experience in aerospace science, engineering and technology.
NASA/LaRC During his early career, he performed guidance, navigation and trajectory analyses for the Lunar Orbiter, Apollo and Viking missions. He was either a principal investigator or a co-investigator on several space missions including the Lunar Orbiter Selenodesy Experiment to map the gravity field of the Moon, the Viking Radio Science Team that determined atmospheric, gravitational and areophysical properties of Mars, the Pioneer Venus Aeronomy experiment that explored the upper atmosphere of Venus, the GEOS-3 radar altimetry mapping of the terrestrial oceans. He was the originator of the Viking Phobos-Deimos Encounter Experiment during which the Viking Orbiters passed within 30 km of Phobos and 100 km of Deimos, thereby determining the mass of both satellites and providing images with resolution below 1 meter. He has other experience analyzing and interpreting Earth and planetary observation data including the Nimbus-6 measurements of stratospheric ozone.
At NASA, Dr. Tolson acted as head of the Planetary Physics Branch and the Atmospheric Science Branch. He was also head of the Interdisciplinary Research Office which was a division level office focused on interdisciplinary research for aerospace vehicles including rotorcraft, hypersonic vehicles and large, flexible space structures. He has performed other management functions including Navigation Manager for the Viking Mission to Mars responsible for all navigation from the Earth to Mars orbit, to entry, descent and landing on Mars, and post-landing position determination. He has received the Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, NASA's highest scientific award. He also served as the Chief Scientist of the Langley Research Center.
GWU/JIAFS He was a Professor at George Washington University from 1991 through 2003. Research activities of Prof. Tolson and his students are provided at Atmospheric Flight, Space Flight Mechanics and
UMD/NIA Professor Tolson was the University of Maryland Liaison Professor to the National Institute of Aerospace in 2004. His students performed research on orbiting propellant depots, hazard avoidance during lunar landings, optimal interplanetary transfers, orbiting and landing on Phobos and Deimos, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter aerobraking.
Professor Tolson served as the
North Carolina State University Samuel P. Langley Distinguished Professor
in Planetary Atmospheric and Flight Sciences to the
National Institute of Aerospace from 2005 through 2011. He and his students
performed research that included recovering zonal winds on Mars from the Odyssey accelerometer data,
the aerobraking phase of the
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, studies under the
Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts program,
and using LIDAR for precision landing and hazard avoidance. They also performed
atmospheric flight mechanics studies for the
Mars Science Laboratory, the
Phoenix mission, Crew Exploration Vehicle and
Constellation Launch Abort vehicle,
entry reconstruction and atmospheric characterization, and the
Mars Exploration Rover entry
anomaly investigation. MSL studies included uncertainty quantification in mesoscale atmospheric density and temperature
predictions due to dust distribution uncertainty and the development of efficient methods for utilization of
mesoscale data in flight simulations.
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Updated 10/1/2011 by RHT
Viking photographs property of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration