Meet the RIS4E Team—And Their Hats

Text and photos by Katherine Wright

 

Khaki colored pants, a beige shirt, and brown leather boots—the invariable uniform of geologists out in the field. Add in safety vests and it’s hard to distinguish members of a team like RIS4E when they’re crouched down, studying rocks. That is, if not for their hats.

The RIS4E scientists spent 10 days in the volcanic fields of New Mexico, testing handheld geological instruments that one day might be used by astronauts on the moon or Mars. Each member of the team had a job, many specific tasks—and distinctive headgear that everyone else could identify from a distance at a glance.

“We all recognize each other by our hats,” said Jake Bleacher, a NASA geoscientist who led the team on this trip and previous RIS4E research missions.

For the RIS4E team, hats were indispensable gear for protection from the scorching sun. But they were also a window into the wearer’s personality, a history of the places they’ve travelled and a trigger for precious memories.  A field hat, Bleacher said, “becomes part of your persona.”

Here is an introduction to some of the RIS4E team through their hats.

 

JAKE BLEACHER

Team Lead—Badass Hat

The Job: Jake Bleacher is a geoscientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland who studies volcanoes on Earth, the moon, and Mars. He also tests handheld geological instruments for use in space and provides geology training for new astronauts.

The Hat: Bleacher has had his signature black leather cowboy hat for more than 15 years and wears it on all his treks into the field. His was the only leather hat on this trip—and also the most mocked. In thermal images taken by the RIS4E team, Bleacher’s hat stood out as the hottest object in the blazing 105-degree heat. “I wear it just because it gives me solid shade,” he said, but that’s not the only reason. “When you go in the field,” he said, “you’ve got to have a badass hat.”

 

KELSEY YOUNG

Science Lead—Fighting Irish Cap

The Job: Kelsey Young is a geoscientist at both NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. On this trip to Kilbourne Hole in New Mexico, Young was testing out a handheld device that can determine the chemical composition of rocks. She was also the field trip’s science point person, collating the data from the different science teams.

The Hat: Young was one of only a handful of the RIS4E team members who went for caps. Her customary headwear is a faded blue baseball cap inscribed with the bright gold letters of her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. The cap travels with Young on her field campaigns, but she almost lost it on the RIS4E trip to Hawaii two years ago. She said she was “totally crushed” when she realized she’d accidentally left it overnight on a lava field, but relieved when it was still there when she went back the next day to find it. “I love my hat,” she said.

 

PATRICK WHELLEY

Team LiDAR —Cool Cowboy

The Job: Patrick Whelley is a volcanologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and headed up the team at Kilbourne Hole operating an instrument called LiDAR, which uses lasers to build 3D terrain maps.

The Hat: A semi truck crushed Whelley’s first straw cowboy hat, a Ph.D. graduation gift from his sister. “It flew out of my Jeep,” he recalls. “I was going to pick it up and it got smashed.”  But he liked the cowboy hat so much that he went out to buy a replacement. Whelley’s hat doesn’t provide as much shade from the sun as a wide-brimmed floppy hat, but the white material reflects light and “keeps me a little bit cooler,” he said. “Floppy hats don’t breathe.”

 

BRENT GARRY

Team LiDAR—Beach Toon Headgear

The Job: Brent Garry is a volcanologist at Goddard Space Flight Center. He joined the RIS4E team for the latter part of the trip to Aden Crater, where they were mapping out pits and tubes in the lava field using a LiDAR (pictured here in Garry’s backpack.)

The Hat: Garry normally wears baseball caps, but ditched them for a floppy beach hat while in Hawaii last November. His blue hat, adorned with white palm trees, was a unique head fashion choice on this trip, as were the two Stitch cartoon character badges pinned to the hat. Stitch, from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch, is Garry’s favorite cartoon character, and his office is full of memorabilia from the film. The character “fits my personality,” Garry said. “He has a sweet side to him and a wild mischievous side.”

 

JACOB RICHARDSON

FLIR Operator—Man of Many Hats

The Job: Jacob Richardson is a planetary volcanologist at Goddard Space Flight Center. He was part of the LiDAR team but also operated a thermographic camera called a FLIR (forward looking infrared camera) that captures heat radiation, the same technology used in night vision cameras.

The Hat: Every occasion requires different headgear, says Richardson, who has hats for all climates—wet, dry, hot or cold. In New Mexico, he wore a straw hat he bought in 2012 in Ensenada, Mexico, where he had travelled to monitor how far the ground had moved apart after a 5.0 earthquake that had just hit. Richardson had packed a leather cowboy hat but ditched it in the heat for a cooler alternative. “I realized my hat was a crappy hat—it was a hot hat like Jake’s,” he said.

 

DEANNE ROGERS

Hyperspectral Camera—Perennial Visor

The Job: Deanne Rogers is a planetary scientist at Stony Brook University. On this field trip she used a hyperspectral camera, which captures the heat or infrared light emitted by rocks, to map the different rock types.

The Hat: In the heat, most hats make your head sweat. To avoid this fate, Rogers opted for a white Adidas visor that she’s “had forever.” (Rogers’s Ph.D. student, Alexandra Ahern, was the only person not to wear a hat on the first day in the field but team members persuaded her to get one after assessing her sunburn. She bought a black baseball cap at Walmart.)

 

AMY McADAM

LIBS Expert—Sun Blocker

The Job: Amy McAdam is a geochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In New Mexico she operated a hand-held chemical analysis device called a LIBS, short for Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy. The instrument uses a laser to determine the chemistry of a rock in a under a minute.

The Hat: Amy McAdam has never been sunburned while wearing her cream-colored explorer’s hat. It has kept her cool and burn-free in deserts across the U.S. McAdam can’t remember a time when she didn’t own her floppy sunhat. “It even went to my wedding,” she said, though she didn’t wear it at the ceremony.

 

BUTCH WILMORE

Astronaut—Aussie Style

The Job: Butch Wilmore is a NASA astronaut who has spent 178 days in space. Wilmore joined RIS4E at Kilbourne Hole to give an astronaut’s perspective on the simulated space walks the team was carrying out.

The Hat: Wilmore is not a floppy hat guy, nor is he a fan of perspiring unnecessarily. Wilmore normally dons a cowboy hat akin to Jake Bleacher’s but thought it would be too hot and heavy for the New Mexican desert. Instead, he bought an Australian Outback-style hat, a wide-brimmed, khaki hat that “looks better than those floppy hats.”

 

JOSE HURTADO

Potrillo Expert—NASA Cap

The Job: Jose Hurtado is a geologist at the University of Texas at El Paso. At Kilbourne Hole he acted as guide, making sure none of the team was left behind in the desert, and flew a drone that snapped pictures of the team from the air.

The Hat: Hurtado bought his first NASA-branded cap when he took part in one of the space agency’s Desert RATS exercises—research and technology studies where NASA tests spacesuits, vehicles, and other equipment for future human missions to other planets. The cap travelled with him all over the Southwest and as far as Bhutan, in South Asia, but eventually it got worn out and overwashed and Hurtado had to ditch it. He acquired his current cap on a recent trip to Johnson Space Center in Houston to interview to be an astronaut—the third time he’d made it to the interview stage. “I’ll apply until they tell me to stop,” he said.

Meet the RIS4E Team—And Their Hats

Text and photos by Katherine Wright

 

Khaki colored pants, a beige shirt, and brown leather boots—the invariable uniform of geologists out in the field. Add in safety vests and it’s hard to distinguish members of a team like RIS4E when they’re crouched down, studying rocks. That is, if not for their hats.

The RIS4E scientists spent 10 days in the volcanic fields of New Mexico, testing handheld geological instruments that one day might be used by astronauts on the moon or Mars. Each member of the team had a job, many specific tasks—and distinctive headgear that everyone else could identify from a distance at a glance.

“We all recognize each other by our hats,” said Jake Bleacher, a NASA geoscientist who led the team on this trip and previous RIS4E research missions.

For the RIS4E team, hats were indispensable gear for protection from the scorching sun. But they were also a window into the wearer’s personality, a history of the places they’ve travelled and a trigger for precious memories.  A field hat, Bleacher said, “becomes part of your persona.”

Here is an introduction to some of the RIS4E team through their hats.

 

JAKE BLEACHER

Team Lead—Badass Hat

The Job: Jake Bleacher is a geoscientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland who studies volcanoes on Earth, the moon, and Mars. He also tests handheld geological instruments for use in space and provides geology training for new astronauts.

The Hat: Bleacher has had his signature black leather cowboy hat for more than 15 years and wears it on all his treks into the field. His was the only leather hat on this trip—and also the most mocked. In thermal images taken by the RIS4E team, Bleacher’s hat stood out as the hottest object in the blazing 105-degree heat. “I wear it just because it gives me solid shade,” he said, but that’s not the only reason. “When you go in the field,” he said, “you’ve got to have a badass hat.”

 

KELSEY YOUNG

Science Lead—Fighting Irish Cap

The Job: Kelsey Young is a geoscientist at both NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. On this trip to Kilbourne Hole in New Mexico, Young was testing out a handheld device that can determine the chemical composition of rocks. She was also the field trip’s science point person, collating the data from the different science teams.

The Hat: Young was one of only a handful of the RIS4E team members who went for caps. Her customary headwear is a faded blue baseball cap inscribed with the bright gold letters of her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. The cap travels with Young on her field campaigns, but she almost lost it on the RIS4E trip to Hawaii two years ago. She said she was “totally crushed” when she realized she’d accidentally left it overnight on a lava field, but relieved when it was still there when she went back the next day to find it. “I love my hat,” she said.

 

PATRICK WHELLEY

Team LiDAR —Cool Cowboy

The Job: Patrick Whelley is a volcanologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and headed up the team at Kilbourne Hole operating an instrument called LiDAR, which uses lasers to build 3D terrain maps.

The Hat: A semi truck crushed Whelley’s first straw cowboy hat, a Ph.D. graduation gift from his sister. “It flew out of my Jeep,” he recalls. “I was going to pick it up and it got smashed.”  But he liked the cowboy hat so much that he went out to buy a replacement. Whelley’s hat doesn’t provide as much shade from the sun as a wide-brimmed floppy hat, but the white material reflects light and “keeps me a little bit cooler,” he said. “Floppy hats don’t breathe.”

 

BRENT GARRY

Team LiDAR—Beach Toon Headgear

The Job: Brent Garry is a volcanologist at Goddard Space Flight Center. He joined the RIS4E team for the latter part of the trip to Aden Crater, where they were mapping out pits and tubes in the lava field using a LiDAR (pictured here in Garry’s backpack.)

The Hat: Garry normally wears baseball caps, but ditched them for a floppy beach hat while in Hawaii last November. His blue hat, adorned with white palm trees, was a unique head fashion choice on this trip, as were the two Stitch cartoon character badges pinned to the hat. Stitch, from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch, is Garry’s favorite cartoon character, and his office is full of memorabilia from the film. The character “fits my personality,” Garry said. “He has a sweet side to him and a wild mischievous side.”

 

JACOB RICHARDSON

FLIR Operator—Man of Many Hats

The Job: Jacob Richardson is a planetary volcanologist at Goddard Space Flight Center. He was part of the LiDAR team but also operated a thermographic camera called a FLIR (forward looking infrared camera) that captures heat radiation, the same technology used in night vision cameras.

The Hat: Every occasion requires different headgear, says Richardson, who has hats for all climates—wet, dry, hot or cold. In New Mexico, he wore a straw hat he bought in 2012 in Ensenada, Mexico, where he had travelled to monitor how far the ground had moved apart after a 5.0 earthquake that had just hit. Richardson had packed a leather cowboy hat but ditched it in the heat for a cooler alternative. “I realized my hat was a crappy hat—it was a hot hat like Jake’s,” he said.

 

DEANNE ROGERS

Hyperspectral Camera—Perennial Visor

The Job: Deanne Rogers is a planetary scientist at Stony Brook University. On this field trip she used a hyperspectral camera, which captures the heat or infrared light emitted by rocks, to map the different rock types.

The Hat: In the heat, most hats make your head sweat. To avoid this fate, Rogers opted for a white Adidas visor that she’s “had forever.” (Rogers’s Ph.D. student, Alexandra Ahern, was the only person not to wear a hat on the first day in the field but team members persuaded her to get one after assessing her sunburn. She bought a black baseball cap at Walmart.)

 

AMY McADAM

LIBS Expert—Sun Blocker

The Job: Amy McAdam is a geochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In New Mexico she operated a hand-held chemical analysis device called a LIBS, short for Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy. The instrument uses a laser to determine the chemistry of a rock in a under a minute.

The Hat: Amy McAdam has never been sunburned while wearing her cream-colored explorer’s hat. It has kept her cool and burn-free in deserts across the U.S. McAdam can’t remember a time when she didn’t own her floppy sunhat. “It even went to my wedding,” she said, though she didn’t wear it at the ceremony.

 

BUTCH WILMORE

Astronaut—Aussie Style

The Job: Butch Wilmore is a NASA astronaut who has spent 178 days in space. Wilmore joined RIS4E at Kilbourne Hole to give an astronaut’s perspective on the simulated space walks the team was carrying out.

The Hat: Wilmore is not a floppy hat guy, nor is he a fan of perspiring unnecessarily. Wilmore normally dons a cowboy hat akin to Jake Bleacher’s but thought it would be too hot and heavy for the New Mexican desert. Instead, he bought an Australian Outback-style hat, a wide-brimmed, khaki hat that “looks better than those floppy hats.”

 

JOSE HURTADO

Potrillo Expert—NASA Cap

The Job: Jose Hurtado is a geologist at the University of Texas at El Paso. At Kilbourne Hole he acted as guide, making sure none of the team was left behind in the desert, and flew a drone that snapped pictures of the team from the air.

The Hat: Hurtado bought his first NASA-branded cap when he took part in one of the space agency’s Desert RATS exercises—research and technology studies where NASA tests spacesuits, vehicles, and other equipment for future human missions to other planets. The cap travelled with him all over the Southwest and as far as Bhutan, in South Asia, but eventually it got worn out and overwashed and Hurtado had to ditch it. He acquired his current cap on a recent trip to Johnson Space Center in Houston to interview to be an astronaut—the third time he’d made it to the interview stage. “I’ll apply until they tell me to stop,” he said.