NASA Launches Four New Teams to Explore Solar System

/ 6 days ago

NASA Launches Four New Teams to Explore Solar System

With recent discoveries like the seven Earth-like exoplanets found orbiting a distant star, it can be easy to forget that our own, humble Solar system is vast, exotic domain which remains mostly unexplored. Following a remit, compelled by Congress, to venture to Mars by 2033, NASA has announced that it has launched four new teams to focus its efforts in exploring our star system. The teams will become part of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) and each will study the Moon, asteroids in the vicinity of Earth, and the two Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.

“We look forward to collaborative scientific discoveries from these teams,” Jim Green, Director of the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said. “These results will be vital to NASA successfully conducting the ambitious activities of exploring the solar system with robots and humans.”

The four new NASA teams, as part of SSERVI, are:

  • Network for Exploration and Space Science (NESS); Jack Burns, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado. NESS will implement cross-disciplinary partnerships to advance scientific discovery and human exploration at target destinations by conducting research in robotics, cosmology, astrophysics and heliophysics that is uniquely enabled by human and robotic exploration at the moon, near-Earth asteroids and comets, and Phobos and Deimos.
  • Toolbox for Research and Exploration (TREX); Amanda Hendrix, Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona. TREX aims to develop tools and research methods for exploration of airless bodies, like the moon and asteroids, that are coated in fine-grained dust in order to prepare for human missions.  Laboratory spectral measurements and experiments will accompany studies of existing datasets to understand surface characteristics and to investigate potential resources on airless bodies.
  • Radiation Effects on Volatiles and Exploration of Asteroids and Lunar Surfaces (REVEALS); Thomas Orlando, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia. The REVEALS team will explore radiation processing of natural regolith and human-made composite materials to understand the condensed-matter physics and radiation chemistry that can lead to volatile formation, sequestration and transport. This team also will explore how novel materials and real-time radiation detectors can minimize risks and exposure to dangerous radiation during human exploration missions.
  • Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations (ESPRESSO); Alex Parker, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. Team ESPRESSO will focus on characterizing target surfaces and mitigating hazards that create risk for robotic and human explorers. It will work to assess the geotechnical and thermomechanical properties of target body surfaces to help us understand and predict hazards like landslides, and to improve our understanding of impact ejecta dynamics.

“We are extremely pleased that the community responded with such high-quality proposals, and look forward to the many contributions SSERVI will make in addressing NASA’s science and exploration goals,” said SSERVI Director Yvonne Pendleton.

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