Penelope Boston


Penelope Boston
Alma materUniversity of Colorado Boulder
Scientific career
InstitutionsNational Cave and Karst Research Institute
NASA Astrobiology Institute
Thesis (1985)

Penelope J. Boston is a speleologist. She is associate director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute[1] in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and founder and director of the Cave and Karst Studies Program at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. Among her research interests are geomicrobiology of caves and mines, extraterrestrial speleogenesis, and space exploration and astrobiology generally.[2]

In the mid-1980s, Boston (then a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder) was one of the founders of the Mars Underground and helped organize a series of conferences called The Case for Mars.[3][4][5] She was the last director of the Nasa Astrobiology Institute before the Institute was suspended.[6]


She has a B.S. in microbiology, geology, and psychology, and a M.S. in microbiology and atmospheric chemistry. She completed her Ph.D. from University of Colorado Boulder in 1985. During 2002–2004, she was Principal Investigator on the Caves of Mars Project, which, among other things, studied the effects on mice of an atmosphere rich in argon, and "flat crops" that might be grown in Martian caves.[7][8]

She developed the concept of small jumping robots for Mars exploration.[9][10] She gave a TEDtalk about the likelihood of life on Mars in 2006.[11]

Her interest is in extremophiles (organisms which prefer or thrive in the extremes of altitude, cold, darkness, dryness, heat, mineralized environments, pressure, radiation, vacuum, variability, or weightlessness) which may be found in caves and karst on Earth, and she thinks should be looked for in equivalents of other objects in space from asteroids to planets.

An only child of theatrical parents, she writes poetry reflective of her world travel and uncommon specialty.[12] In 2010 she was featured in Symphony of Science.[13] She continues to work with NASA on the Atacama Field Expedition.[14]


  • Schneider, Stephen H.; Boston, Penelope J. (1993). Scientists on Gaia. Boston, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-69160-4.
  • Boston, Penelope (2000). The Case for Mars V: proceedings of the fifth Case for Mars Conference. University of Colorado, Boulder: Univelt (for the American Astronautical Society). ISBN 978-0-87703-459-9.; held May 26–29, 1993, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado.
  • Boston, Penelope (April 1984). The Case for Mars: proceedings of a conference held April 29-May 2, 1981 at University of Colorado Boulder (Science and Technology Series). American Astronautical Society. ISBN 978-0-87703-197-0.

See also


  1. ^ "National cave institute in New Mexico to build visitor center". Foster's Daily Democrat. 2008-11-28. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  2. ^ "Personal Profile of Speleogenesis Network Member: Penelope Boston". Speleogenesis: Network Edition. Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis of the Union International of Speleology. Retrieved 2010-06-01.
  3. ^ Easterbrook, Gregg (1986-09-03). "Possibility of mission to Mars has many obstacles to success". Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach, FL. p. 6E. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  4. ^ "Life in the Extremes: An Interview With Dr. Penelope Boston". Astrobiology: The Living Universe. Oracle ThinkQuest. 2000. Archived from the original on 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  5. ^ Zubrin, Robert (2003). Mars on Earth: the adventures of space pioneers in the high Arctic. J.P. Tarcher/Penguin. p. 255. ISBN 978-1-58542-255-5.
  6. ^ NASA Astrobiology Institute. "The NASA Astrobiology Institute Concludes Its 20-year Tenure". NASA.
  7. ^ Boston, P.; Frederick, G.; Frederick, G.; Welch, S.; Werker, J.; Meyer, T.R.; Sprungman, B.; Hildreth-Werker, V.; Murphy, D.; Thompson, S.L. (2004). "System Feasibility Demonstrations of Caves and Subsurface Constructed for Mars Habitation and Scientific Exploration" (PDF). USRA Reports. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  8. ^ Boston, P.J.; Frederick, R.D.; Welch, S.M.; Werker, J.; Meyer, T.R.; Sprungman, B.; Hildreth-werker, V.; Thompson, S.L.; Murphy, D.L. (2003). "Human utilization of subsurface extraterrestrial environments" (PDF). Gravitational and Space Biology Bulletin. 16 (2): 121–131. PMID 12959139. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  9. ^ Markey, Sean (2006-07-24). "Mars's Next Explorers: Jumping, Baseball-Size Robots?". National Geographic News. National Geographic. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  10. ^ "Mars Attack! DECEMBER 21, 2005". SEED magazine. 2005-12-21. Archived from the original on 2009-04-15. Retrieved 2010-07-01.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ "Penelope Boston says there might be life on Mars". TED (conference). The Sapling Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  12. ^ "Santa Fe Poetry". Broadside. April 2009. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  13. ^ Plait, Phil (2010-06-09). "The Symphonic Case for Mars". Bad Astronomy (blog). Discover. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  14. ^ "Atacama Field Expedition". 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2010-11-22.

External links

  • Prof. Boston's homepage at New Mexico Tech
  • "Penelope J. Boston". Spaceward Bound! Planning and Executing Planetary Analog Field Expeditions: Atacama Field Expedition. NASA. 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  • National Cave and Karst Research Institute of the U.S. National Park Service
  • David, Leonard (2004-03-17). "Fossil Hunting on Mars". CNN. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  • Duncan, Argen (November 24, 2007). "N.M. Tech researchers study theory of life on Mars". Socorro, New Mexico: El Defensor Chieftain. Archived from the original on May 14, 2007. Retrieved 2010-07-01.
  • Penelope Boston at IMDb
  • Penelope Boston at TED Edit this at Wikidata