Emily Lakdawalla
Lakdawalla at 2013 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference
Born (1975-02-08) February 8, 1975 (age 49)
CitizenshipUnited States
EducationAmherst College (BA)
Brown University (MS)
SpouseDarius Lakdawalla
AwardsJonathan Eberhart Planetary Journalism Award (2011) from Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society
Scientific career
Fieldsplanetary geology
InstitutionsThe Planetary Society

Emily Stewart Lakdawalla (born February 8, 1975) is an American planetary geologist and former Senior Editor of The Planetary Society, contributing as both a science writer and a blogger. She has also worked as a teacher and as an environmental consultant. She has performed research work in geology, Mars topography, and science communication and education. Lakdawalla is a science advocate on various social media platforms, interacting with space professionals and enthusiasts on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. She has appeared on such media outlets as NPR, BBC and BBC America.[1][2]


In 1996, Lakdawalla was awarded her Bachelor of Arts degree in geology from Amherst College. In 2000 she received her Master of Science degree in planetary geology from Brown University.[3]


After completing her studies at Amherst, Lakdawalla spent two years, from 1996 through 1998, teaching fifth and sixth grade science at Lake Forest Country Day School in Lake Forest, Illinois.[3]

In 1997, inspired by a space simulation project using images returning from the Galileo mission of two of Jupiter's moons, Io and Europa, Lakdawalla decided to undertake independent research in structural geology.[4]


At Amherst, Lakdawalla worked to study deformed metasedimentary rocks of northeastern Washington. Working at Brown concurrently, she performed analyses of radar images received from Magellan, while also processing topographic data taken of the Baltis Vallis region on Venus, in order to model its geological history.[3]

Lakdawalla has published research on the topography of a putative stratovolcano on Mars, recorded by the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter.[3] She has also worked with an international team to analyze returned Mars rover data,[5] and to evaluate Devon Island as a test site for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed for use on Mars.[6][7]

Lakdawalla's work with Pamela Gay, et al., on the immersion of audiences in interactive educational astronomy content,[8] has been cited by further research into social media content classification and delivery of content types through social media.[9]

Lakdawalla has also engaged in advocacy for citizen science research projects, especially those involving space exploration, such as CosmoQuest[10] and Zooniverse.[11]

The Planetary Society

In 2001, Lakdawalla joined The Planetary Society as a deputy project manager of the Society's Red Rover Goes to Mars project,[4] an educational and public outreach program on the Mars Exploration Rover mission funded by The Lego Group. In 2002, in support of training exercises for Mars rover operations, she administered an international competition, which selected secondary school students for training and travel to Pasadena, California for participation in these exercises. In early 2005, this competition and selection was performed again for actual Mars Exploration Rover mission operations.[3]

During a research operation on Devon Island (located in the Canadian high Arctic), which was funded by The Planetary Society, where a team worked to test the location as a potential analogue for unmanned aerial vehicles to be deployed on Mars,[6] Lakdawalla began writing for the Society's online publications.[3] For several years, she wrote web news articles, as well as making contributions to the society's print publications, including The Planetary Report, where she assumed chief editorial responsibilities in September 2018.[3][12] Lackdawalla left the Planetary Society in September of 2020 [13]


Lakdawalla is a contributing editor to Sky & Telescope magazine, for which she has written articles about Mars, the Moon, outer planets, spacecraft imaging, and Kuiper belt objects. She has written a book about the design and engineering of the Curiosity rover mission, published in 2018, and is working on a second book, about the scientific discoveries of Curiosity, to be published in 2019.[14]

Starting in September 2013, Lakdawalla has penned the monthly "In the Press" column for Nature Geoscience.[15]

Media appearances

Lakdawalla is a regular contributor to the weekly Planetary Radio podcast.[16]

Following Bill Nye's installation as The Planetary Society's Executive Director, Lakdawalla has appeared on television, in webcasts, on Google+ Hangouts, and on Snapshots from Space, viewable from The Planetary Society's YouTube channel.[3][17]

Lakdawalla has been a host for CosmoQuest's Science Hour, interviewing guests, including Bill Nye, about the future of planetary exploration.[18]

In an interview with Brad Allen, Lakdawalla discussed the path that led to a career in science communication, the state of human space exploration and current space exploration missions, such as the Mars Science Laboratory.[19]

In a December 2013 interview with Universe Today, Lakdawalla discussed candidate locations for life in the Solar System based on geological activity and presence of water.[20] In addition to Europa, Lakdawalla cited Enceladus (a moon of Saturn), due to its active salty geysers:

"Those geysers are salty – it's a salt water ocean, so we basically have a world that is conveniently venting its ocean out into space. You don't even have to land – you can just fly right through that plume and check to see what kinds of cool chemistry is happening there. So yeah, I think Enceladus would be a really cool place to explore for life."[20]

Lakdawalla has been interviewed on topics such as China's Jade Rabbit moon rover on NPR's All Things Considered,[21] and she has also appeared on BBC America and BBC World News.[4][14]

Awards and honors

In 2011, Lakdawalla received the Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award from the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society[22][23] for her reporting on the Phoebe ring of Saturn.[24]

Asteroid 274860 Emilylakdawalla, discovered by German astronomers Matthias Busch and Rainer Kresken at the ESA Optical Ground Station in 2009, was named in her honor.[2] The official naming citation was published by the Minor Planet Center on July 12, 2014 (M.P.C. 89086).[25]

Personal life

Lakdawalla resides in Los Angeles with her husband, economist Darius Lakdawalla. The couple originally met when attending Amherst together as undergraduates in the early 1990s. They have two daughters.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Parkhill, Susanna (February 25, 2017). "Emily Lakdawalla- The Marriage Of Science And Journalism". BuzzFeed.
  2. ^ a b "274860 Emilylakdawalla (2009 RE26)". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Emily Lakdawalla extended bio". The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
  4. ^ a b c Lakdawalla, Emily (August 26, 2010). "It is NOT failure to leave academia". Women in Planetary Science. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
  5. ^ Carr, Nancy (January 24, 2004). "Student astronomer to analyse Mars data, but she's no 'geek': Students observe NASA scientists poring over data sent to Earth". The Guardian. p. C.7. ISSN 0832-2708.
  6. ^ a b Fox, William (August 3, 2006). Driving to Mars: In the Arctic with NASA on the Human Journey to the Red Planet. Counterpoint. p. 133. ISBN 9781593761110. Emily was working with Larry's team to test a remote-controlled commercial hobby craft and also to gain some familiarity with Devon Island as a test site. [...] One of the virtues of airplanes on Mars is that, while satellites can look only straight down at most features on the planet, airplanes can fly low enough to look sideways at crater walls and gullies, offering an oblique view that brings into focus strata and other geological features.
  7. ^ Lakdawalla, Emily (Winter 2004). "Mars in Her Eyes". Amherst Magazine. Amherst College. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  8. ^ Gay, Pamela; Plait, Phil; Raddick, Jordan; Cain, Fraser; Lakdawalla, Emily (2009). "Live casting: Bringing astronomy to the masses in real time" (PDF). Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal. CAPjournal. 6: 26. Bibcode:2009CAPJ....6...26G. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-10. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  9. ^ Dann, Stephen (December 6, 2010). "Twitter content classification". First Monday. 15 (12). doi:10.5210/fm.v15i12.2745. hdl:1885/36006.
  10. ^ Lakdawalla, Emily (March 29, 2012). "Moon Mappers citizen science project now public, and statistics show it works!". The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
  11. ^ Lakdawalla, Emily (June 21, 2011). "The most exciting citizen science project ever (to me, anyway)". The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2011-08-31.
  12. ^ Lakdawalla, E. (2018-07-23). "Hello from the new editor of The Planetary Report". www.planetary.org/blogs. The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
  13. ^ "A Goodbye, But Not Forever, From Emily Lakdawalla". The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2022-01-02.
  14. ^ a b Lakdawalla, Emily (2017-09-01). "Book Update: The Design and Engineering of Curiosity". The Planetary Society. Retrieved 2017-09-19.
  15. ^ Lakdawalla, Emily (August 29, 2013). "A river ran through it". Nature Geoscience. 6 (677): 677. Bibcode:2013NatGe...6..677L. doi:10.1038/ngeo1935.
  16. ^ "Planetary Radio". Planetary Society. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  17. ^ Plait, Phil. "Snapshots from Space". Bad Astronomy. Discover Magazine. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
  18. ^ Nye, Bill (March 14, 2012). "Weekly Science Hour: Bill Nye with Emily Lakdawalla" (Interview). Interviewed by Emily Lakdawalla. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  19. ^ Allen, Brad (December 17, 2012). "Episode 14: Emily Lakdawalla". www.bradoverthinks.com (Podcast). Overthinking. Retrieved 2014-03-08.[dead link]
  20. ^ a b Lakdawalla, Emily (December 11, 2013). "Where Should We Look for Life in the Solar System?". Universe Today (Interview). Interviewed by Cain, Fraser. Retrieved 2014-03-09.
  21. ^ Lakdawalla, Emily (January 28, 2014). "China's Jade Rabbit Rover May Be Doomed On The Moon". National Public Radio (Interview). Interviewed by Geoff Brumfiel. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  22. ^ Petit, Charlie (May 20, 2011). "Planetary Society: Meet the winner of the Jonathan Eberhart Prize for Planetary Sciences Journalism". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  23. ^ Stryk, Ted (October 4, 2011). "Awards for Planetary Society figures at the 2011 Division of Planetary Sciences / European Planetary Science Congress meeting". guest blog. Planetary Society.
  24. ^ Lakdawalla, Emily (October 14, 2009). "The Phoebe ring". Planetary Society. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  25. ^ "MPC/MPO/MPS Archive". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 9 September 2019.


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