PROVIDENCE – A team of Brown University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers will help NASA develop scientific goals and exploration strategies for the Earth’s and Mars’ moons as part of a new research institute.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has formed a new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute to study the moons and near-Earth asteroids.
This new institute builds on a previous NASA Lunar Science Institute, of which the Brown team was a founding member. 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,” Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., said in a Wednesday news release. “These results will be vital to NASA successfully conducting the ambitious activities of exploring the solar system with robots and humans.”
Carle Pieters, professor of geological sciences and principal investigator for the Brown/MIT team, said these heavenly bodies are the most accessible solar-system targets for robotic and human exploration beyond Earth.
“They are diverse bodies that together may hold the key to understanding the formation and evolution of our solar system,” he said.
Among the questions the Brown/MIT team will explore are: 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.