Dr. Dale C. Ferguson is the Principal Investigator on one of the Mars Pathfinder Sojourner Rover technology experiments, the Wheel Abrasion Experiment, or WAE. He is the Deputy for Space Environments in the Photovoltaics and Space Environments Branch at the NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveleand, Ohio. Dr. Ferguson is also Astronomy Instructor and Director of the Burrell Memorial Observatory at Baldwin-Wallace College, in Berea, Ohio. He has published a college textbook, "Introductory Astronomy Exercis es", through Wadsworth Publishing Co., Belmont, California.
Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1948, Dr. Ferguson was valedictorian of his 1966 graduating class at Springboro High School, about 30 miles south of Dayton. In 1970, he graduated with high honors from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, with a B .S. in Astronomy and the Jason J. Nassau Prize in Astronomy. In 1974, Dr. Ferguson received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Arizona, in Tucson.
Dr. Ferguson has taught or done research at the following institutions: the University of Arizona, Louisiana State University, the Max-Planck-Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany, New York University, the Arecibo Radioastronomy Observatory in Puerto Rico, Southeast Missouri State University, Case Western Reserve University, the NASA Lewis Research Center, and Baldwin-Wallace College. He has been a Principal Investigator on the following space flight experiments: Plasma Interactions Experiment II (PIX-II, Delta, orbital), Effects of Oxygen Interactions with Materials 3 (EOIM-3, Shuttle payload bay), Plasma Motor Generator diagnostics package (PMG, Delta, orbital tether), Solar Array Module Plasma Interactions Experiment (SAMPIE, Shuttle payload bay), and the Wheel Abrasion Experiment (WAE, Mars Pathfinder Rover).
Dr. Ferguson's primary research interest is the effects on spacecraft of their environments. His PIX-II, PMG, and SAMPIE experiments investigated interactions of the space plasma with spacecraft flying through it. EOIM-3 looked at the effects of the ato mic oxygen environment in low Earth orbit on spacecraft materials. And, of course, WAE is investigating the wear and abrasion caused by the Martian dust on metals deposited on one of Sojourner's wheels. WAE also has detected soil adhesion due to static electrical charging of parts of the WAE wheel by rolling in the dry Martian atmosphere. In all cases, knowledge of the effects of spacecraft environments makes it possible to build better spacecraft in the future.