Adriana Ocampo

Adriana Ocampo
Adriana Ocampo
Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Occupation: Planetary Geologist

Year born: 1955

Research Areas: Meteorite Craters, Planets, Moons


"When thinking about the great adventure that you have ahead, dream and never give-up, be persistent and always be true to your heart."

Source: NASA Solar System Exploration


Early Life

Adriana was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She grew up in Colombia, Argentina and went to high school in the USA. Adriana loved space. She looked at the stars from the roof of her house and played games where she imagined she was exploring space (her dolls and her pet dog were her fellow astronauts!). Adriana’s parents encouraged her passion and she joined a scout troop that was sponsored by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). From there, she got a volunteering position and then a summer job at JPL. Part of her job was analysing pictures taken by the NASA Viking spacecraft.

After school, Adriana started studying aerospace engineering but soon switched topics to geology. She has a BSc in Geology and a masters’ degree in Planetary Geology from California State University. She studied for her PhD at Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands.

Career Highlights

Adriana’s research led to the discovery of the Chicxulub impact crater. The asteroid that made this crater, hit Earth more than 65 million years ago. Its impact triggered the extinction of more than half of the Earth's species, including the dinosaurs. The crater was found on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. Scientists were unable to find it for many years because it was hidden under a kilometre of younger rock. Adriana led six research expeditions to study this impact event that changed the evolution of life on Earth.

Adriana has also worked on space missions. In 2005 she was a member of the Galileo mission team. Galileo was a spacecraft that investigated Jupiter and its icy moon Europa. Adriana is now a Lead Science Manager for NASA’s New Frontiers Programme. In this role, she has worked on many space missions including missions to Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Pluto.


Asteroid 177120 Ocampo Uría is named after Adriana. She has won several awards honouring women in science.

Other Interests

Adriana spends time out in nature. She loves exploring and anything to do with flying.