SECRET IDENTITY: Peter Smith of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
SECRET POWER: Builds robots that explore space and other planets
SECRET ORIGIN: Scientist Peter Smith was monitoring communications from his robotic Mars lander at his Tucson lab during a monsoon storm, when a bolt of lightning hit the building. When he awoke, he discovered that he had somehow been transported via a data stream to the surface of Mars. Combining his brilliant genius at building robots with the newfound super-strength he gained while dealing with the lower gravity of the Red Planet, Smith led a horde of Martian Tharks to victory over their oppressors, earning his title: Warlord of Mars!
THE REAL STORY: Peter Smith holds the Thomas R. Brown Distinguished Chair of Integrative Science at the Lunar and Planetary Lab. He has worked on NASA missions that have explored Venus, Saturn and Saturn's moon Titan. He was the principal investigator on the Phoenix Mars Mission, which landed a robotic lab on the arctic plains of Mars in 2008 and sent back photos and other data for five months. He's now designing cameras for NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, which will send a space probe to gather samples from a near-Earth asteroid before returning to Earth.
SUPER BESTS: "My favorite little secret place for lunch is the Arizona Inn, by the pool. To me, it's like an instant vacation on the Mediterranean—the way it's set up, and the colors and the trees (and) the bougainvillea, and the color of the pool and the nice green lawn ... it just seems like southern France or something. It's a complete departure from the rest of your day to go to the inn and sit by the pool and have a little lunch. They have a grilled-cheese sandwich that's really fabulous, made with some sort of cornbread and cheese and some beans. It's delicious.
"The patio at Cushing Street Bar and Restaurant is a special place for me. I've known (owner) Betsy Rollings since high school, and she really puts on a spectacular dinner, and on (some) nights, there's music. For people who haven't been there, it's really worth going. It's old, historic Tucson, and that's what I like about it.
"I love Maynards Market and Kitchen in the old train station. I like the design; I like the trains going by every 15 minutes; I like Richard Oseran, who owns the place. He's such a gentleman. Some of the cocktails they make there are especially nice. They have one of these mixologists who think back to the way the way that cocktails were made in the '30s. I always like going there. The railing is all train wheels, so you feel like you're right on the platform. It's kind of an Eastern feeling that you don't really get in Tucson, but, of course, it's the original train station, so it's historic.
"I really like the new lunchroom out at Pima Air and Space Museum. It's surrounded by windows, and in every direction, you have some bizarre-looking airplane that's now a museum piece. And you don't have to pay the entry fee to go to the restaurant. You can get a taste of the museum while you're eating your lunch. I have a fondness for those old planes. It's a bygone era. The planes are like the old cars. They have a certain beauty to them in the way they're shaped. ... I'm a retro guy in some ways, and I grew up in the '50s. One of my early memories of flying on an airplane was a Stratocruiser or something like that. You'd go down this little circular stairway, and there was a bar and a lounge. I couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old, and my parents took me on this flight and dragged me down to the bar while they had their cocktails. I'll never forget that. That was wonderful way to fly."