HOUSTON (USRA PR) — The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is proud to announce NASA’s recent selection of scientists from USRA’s Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), the Johnson Space Center (JSC), Arecibo Observatory, and colleagues at six universities to be one of the nine initial teams in NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). SSERVI is a new organization that expands the scope of the NASA Lunar Science Institute to one that includes near-Earth asteroids and the moons of Mars.
The LPI/JSC team is led by Dr. David A. Kring, Senior Staff Scientist at the LPI and the founding Principal Investigator of the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration. Under the auspices of SSERVI, the team will continue to integrate science and exploration activities in a coordinated study of the Moon and the asteroids that bombard the Earth-Moon system. Those studies will include observations of existing near-Earth asteroids, studies of past collisional events in the Earth-Moon system, and the collisional evolution of the asteroid belt that delivers those objects to near-Earth space.
The team includes partners from the Southwest Research Institute, University of Arizona, University of Hawaii, University of Houston, University of Maryland, University of Notre Dame, University of Colorado, and American Museum of Natural History in the United States, plus several scientific collaborators in the international community.
At the core of the program is the LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, which, in its first five years of operation, has published the results of over 50 scientific studies, trained over 150 students and postdoctoral researchers, conducted a major assessment of possible lunar landing sites, and participated in both lunar and near-Earth asteroid mission simulations (e.g., through the Desert RATS portion of NASA’s Analog Missions.
“This is an incredibly exciting moment,” said Kring. “Our team is ready to help NASA implement a science and exploration program that returns the nation, along with our international partners, to ancient planetary surface environments that offer unbounded clues about our origins and intriguing opportunities for sustained operations in deep space.”
“We are very pleased to be a part of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute,” said Eileen Stansbery, Director of Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science at JSC. “This team is poised to address important scientific questions for not only understanding the formation and evolution of our nearest neighbors but also providing the scientific and technical expertise necessary to influence stepping out into the solar system with future space missions.”
SSERVI members include academic institutions, non-profit research institutes, private companies, NASA centers, and other government laboratories. The winning teams, which SSERVI will support for five years at a total amount of approximately $12 million per year, were selected from a pool of 32 proposals based on competitive peer-review evaluation.
Other teams selected include
- Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets: Origin, Evolution and Discovery; William Bottke, Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado
- Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science; Daniel Britt, University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida
- Volatiles, Regolith and Thermal Investigations Consortium for Exploration and Science; Ben Bussey, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland
- Dynamic Response of Environments at Asteroids, the Moon, and Moons of Mars; William Farrell, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
- Remote, In Situ and Synchrotron Studies for Science and Exploration; Timothy Glotch, Stony Brook University in New York.
- Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration; Jennifer Heldmann, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California
- Institute for Modeling Plasma, Atmospheres and Cosmic Dust; Mihaly Horanyi, University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado
- Evolution and Environment of Exploration Destinations: Science and Engineering Synergism; Carle Pieters, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island