Dr. Tomoko Arai became the director of Planetary Exploration Research Center (PERC), Chiba Institute of Technology (CIT), upon April 1st, 2023. As director, she leads research and development activities of the PERC, in planetary science and solar system exploration. PERC was founded in April, 2009 by Dr. Takafumi Matsui, who was a distinguished planetary scientist and the first director of PERC. She is one of the original members of PERC. She was Senior Staff Scientist from 2009 to 2017 and Principal Staff Scientist from 2017 to 2023 at PERC.
She is a planetary scientist with broad scientific expertise and multidisciplinary approaches, including mineralogy, experimental petrology, geochemistry, telescopic observation and remote sensing. Her research focuses on the origin and evolution of our Solar System through sample studies of Moon rocks, meteorites, and cosmic dust and photometric and spectroscopic observation of meteors, asteroids and the Moon.
She also has a strong engineering background in development of manned and unmanned spacecrafts and the associated science instruments. Her space mission experience includes science and development roles of the U.S. Centrifuge Accommodations Module, Life Science Glovebox, Centrifuge Rotor of the International Space Station (ISS), and Japanese KAGUYA (SELENE) Lunar orbiting satellite at JAXA, formerly NASDA.
She served as Principal Investigator and Project Manager of the ISS METEOR, which conducted the long-term observation of meteor showers onboard the Destiny U.S. Laboratory module from 2016 to 2019. She is Principal Investigator of DESTINTY+, the upcoming Japanese asteroid flyby mission to the Geminid meteor shower’s parent asteroid (3200) Phaethon.
She joined the NASA- and NSF-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program in the 2012-2013 field season. The International Astronomical Union named asteroid 22106 Tomokoarai to honor her planetary science contributions in 2014. She holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Tokyo, and master’s and doctoral degrees in mineralogy from the University of Tokyo. She was a visiting scholar at NASA Johnson Space Center and University of California, Los Angeles as a Research Fellowship for Young Scientists of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.