Brown/MIT team chosen for new NASA institute

Nov 06, 2013

NASA has tapped a team of Brown and MIT researchers to be part of its new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). The team will help to develop scientific goals and exploration strategies for the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos.

"These are the most accessible targets for robotic and human exploration beyond Earth," said Carle Pieters, professor of geological sciences and principal investigator for the Brown/MIT team. "They are diverse bodies that together may hold the key to understanding the formation and evolution of our solar system."

SSERVI builds on a previous NASA Lunar Science Institute of which the Brown team was a founding member. SSERVI's mission is to facilitate collaborative scientific research relevant to NASA's exploration goals. The Brown/MIT group is one of nine selected from a pool of 32 proposals.

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

The Brown/MIT team will focus on the environment and evolution of the exploration targets. Among the questions the researchers will explore: How did the Moon form and what processes occurred as it cooled from its early molten state? What can asteroids reveal about the origins of planets and early planetary processes? How are water and other volatiles distributed on these bodies, and what can that tell us about the evolution of volatiles in the solar system?

The team that will address those questions consists of 19 Brown faculty members, seven from MIT, and researchers from four other institutions and seven foreign countries. Maria Zuber, who earned her Ph.D. from Brown, will lead the effort on the MIT side.

The research questions the team will explore each present new exploration challenges. One of the goals of the Brown/MIT team is to approach those challenges through "science and engineering synergism."

"The idea is to bring the scientists and the engineers together at the beginning of the process and build a mission from the bottom up," said James Head, professor of geological sciences and co-investigator on the team. "This is the approach that helped to make the later Apollo missions—Apollo 15, 16, and 17—so successful from both a technological and scientific point of view."

Two astronauts will help the team develop their science/engineering strategy. Dave Scott, commander of Apollo 15, is a visiting professor at Brown. Jeff Hoffman, veteran of five space shuttle missions, is a professor at MIT.

"We're very excited about the team we've put together," Pieters said. "We're looking forward to working with the other great teams NASA has assembled."

Explore further: SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Science team outlines goals for NASA's 2020 Mars rover

Jul 10, 2013

The rover NASA will send to Mars in 2020 should look for signs of past life, collect samples for possible future return to Earth, and demonstrate technology for future human exploration of the Red Planet, a ...

NASA wants investigations for a Mars 2020 rover

Sep 30, 2013

(Phys.org) —NASA has released its announcement of an open competition for the planetary community to submit proposals for the science and exploration technology instruments that would be carried aboard ...

NASA's asteroid initiative benefits from rich history

Apr 12, 2013

NASA's FY2014 budget proposal includes a plan to robotically capture a small near-Earth asteroid and redirect it safely to a stable orbit in the Earth-moon system where astronauts can visit and explore it. ...

Next generation of explorers takes the stage

Aug 21, 2013

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on Tuesday formally welcomed the eight newest candidates to the astronaut corps and unveiled a space exploration roadmap that makes clear the global community is working together on a unified ...

NASA's Moon Mapper Beholds Home

Aug 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- This image of Earth taken from 200 kilometers (124 miles) above the lunar surface was taken by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper, one of two NASA instruments onboard the Indian Space Research Organization's ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

Dec 19, 2014

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.