NASA Director speaking at Lakehead University during R and I Week

Photo of Dr. James Green

Dr. James Green

February 27, 2017 – Thunder Bay, ON

When Dr. James Green was in high school he worked in an observatory with an Alvan Clark telescope, which stirred in him a passion for the final frontier – space.

“I thoroughly enjoyed looking into the sky at night and observing the beautiful planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies,” Green said.

“This sparked my interest to go in to the field of space science. When I went to the University of Iowa I knew from the very beginning I was going for a space science degree.”

Green received his PhD in 1979 and began working at NASA. When he became Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division he couldn’t have known he’d help Hollywood make a movie that took place on Mars – The Martian (2015) – starring Matt Damon, whose character Mark Watney desperately tries to get off the Red Planet and return to Earth.

“Working with Ridley Scott’s team was an absolute delight. I believe the reason I enjoyed this so much was because Ridley really wanted the movie to have as realistic look and feel about Mars as possible. Once I understood what he wanted, then I was all in,” Green said.

His free talk at Lakehead University will describe the past and future of Mars and Venus, discussing whether they once contained life and if they could one day harbor life.

Planetary scientists have developed the capability to model how Venus and Mars have evolved since their birth and what may happen to them in the distant future, he said.

“It is important to note that the intensity of the sun’s light will continue to increase over time. The future for Venus then is clear. It will continue to be an ultra-hot world, devoid of life as we know it.” 

Mars is another story. “For Mars, however, as the intensity of the sun’s light increases it will continue to warm the planet until the carbon dioxide veneer over its northern polar cap sublimates, creating an enhanced greenhouse effect that will warm the planet and melt any remaining water ice—thereby producing a smaller ocean. Mars may once again become a habitable planet.”

Green said it is currently impossible to determine if Venus had supported any kind of life in its past without a long-term visit to the surface to study the planet more intensively.

“That’s also somewhat true for Mars, but perhaps Mars supported at least microbial life. Scientists don’t like to speculate, but because both planets appear to have had significant amounts of water oceans on their surface, many scientists believe that these are, indeed, habitable environments which could have supported some type of life in their past. All that still remains to be discovered,” he said.

For anyone who dreams of working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Green said NASA offers employment in all types of roles, and an internship program provides a wonderful learning and networking opportunity for students as well as educators.

Green’s free talk, part of Research and Innovation Week, will be on Wednesday, March 8 at 7:30 pm at Lakehead University in ATAC 1003. It’s called the Search for Life Beyond Earth in Space and Time. No registration is required.

Everyone is welcome to attend. Refreshments will be available. The talk will also be shown via livestream here:

Visit for more information about R and I Week.


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Lakehead University has about 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. In 2016, for the second consecutive year, Re$earch Infosource ranked Lakehead first among Canada’s undergraduate universities. Visit