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Mary Tolan December 28, 2011 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Cave Man

Scientist and wanna-be astronaut Jut Wynne makes time for trails

J.Judson "Jut" Wynne is often crawling on his belly, rappelling into deep holes or squeezing through rock passages ...

Photo by Laura Camden

J.Judson "Jut" Wynne is often crawling on his belly, rappelling into deep holes or squeezing through rock passages so tight he must exhale all the air from his lungs. For Wynne, a day at work means being beneath the earth's surface for four to 12 hours at a time. Above ground, Wynne balances these dark scientific caving expeditions with sunlit trail runs, which he credits for keeping his body, mind and spirit sharp.

With a compact, muscular frame and brown hair that peeks out from underneath an ever-present brimmed cap or hardhat, the 39-year-old bachelor talks incessantly about running, his research and personal philosophy. Wynne is a cave-research scientist with the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research at Northern Arizona University and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute. For NASA, Wynne is developing thermal-detection techniques (such as infrared cameras) to locate caves and their critters on Mars and the Moon, work that he hopes will someday take him to space. "I'd love to be the first person to explore a lunar cave," he says. "And going into space wouldn't be too shabby either."

Wynne has lived in Flagstaff, Arizona, for 10 years and been "obsessed with caves" for about eight of those. A long-time runner, he's only become serious about the sport for the past five years, in part to condition himself for his grueling caving expeditions.

 



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