Contact Information

Dr. Ford obtained his B.A. in physics from Oxford University in 1966 and his Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics in 1973 from Brandeis University where his thesis advisor was Howard Schnitzer. After three years of post-doctoral research in Paris and Nijmegen, he came to MIT in 1976 to learn very long baseline interferometry from Irwin Shapiro. In 1978 he joined the MIT planetary radar group under Gordon Pettengill, with whom he has collaborated on the Pioneer Venus Orbiter, Magellan, Shuttle Imaging Radar, and Mars Global Surveyor missions.

While studying planetary surfaces, Dr. Ford became interested in improving the collection and dissemination of remote sensing data. He was a member of NASA’s PSASS committee that created the Planetary Data System, becoming the deputy director of its Geoscience Node. His General Image Processing System, a set of computer programs distributed by MIT, became popular with planetary scientists, and his “nasanews@mit” service was a pre-web demonstration of news dissemination via the Internet. From 2005-2010, Dr. Ford served on the Scientific Computing Committee of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and he chaired the Kavli Committee on High Performance Computing in 2015-2018.

In 1995, Dr. Ford joined the team that was building ACIS, the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer, for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. As flight software manager, he wrote the software for the on-board processors that distinguish x-rays from background noise, and he continues to manage ACIS flight and ground support systems. While MIT’s HETE-2 spacecraft was reporting the direction of gamma-ray bursts, he used ACIS to observe their afterglows, and he has also teamed with colleagues in the US and UK to observe x-rays from Jupiter and Saturn.

Dr. Ford has helped to design the science operations architecture for the CRaTER instrument on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), for the Interplanetary Boundary Explorer (IBEX), and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

Some Research Results

Venus global topography from the Magellan Radar Altimeter (1990-2). Venus global emissivity from the Magellan radiometer (1990-2) Jupiter’s soft x-ray flux from the ACIS imaging spectrometer (Chandra, 2010)


  • Microwave remote sensing of asteroids, moons, and rocky planets
  • x-ray spectroscopy of planetary magnetospheres
  • the description of remote-sensing data sets and of algorithms that operate upon them.

Research Areas and Instrumentation