Employee Profile - Dr. Jim Bergstrom
Jim Bergstrom has always wanted to explore the solar system. Although his dream of being an astronaut didn’t materialize, he has helped to dramatically change what we know about Mars.
Bergstrom was the systems engineer on the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The mission has returned spectacular data which is helping scientists understand the geologic and climatic processes and history of Mars, and to identify landing sites for future Mars missions.
Bergstrom’s team designed an instrument that combined very high resolution with high signal-to-noise ratio. He joined the team in 2001 and continues to support flight operations today.
“This project is certainly the highlight of my career thus far,” said Bergstrom. “We worked very hard to meet the imaging requirements of the program and to maintain a low mass design with appropriate redundancies.”
The .5 meter telescope and its associated electronics weigh just 143 pounds but provide very high quality images. “Just one image at full resolution would take up a wall with 20 TV screens stacked on top of each other and 60 screens set side-by-side,” he said. “That’s about 20,000 by 60,000 pixels.”
He remembers with excitement when the first images were returned from HiRISE in March 2006. “I was with the science team in Tucson when I saw the first images come in. We knew then that the instrument was really doing a great job—you could zoom and zoom and zoom into those pixels.”
Images from HiRISE have unveiled geologic mysteries found in the darkest shadows of Mars’ craters and provided evidence of water-related geologic activity.
“Data gleaned by HiRISE images has been a quantum leap for the science community,” said Bergstrom. “I am so proud to have been a part of it.”