Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Background: LPI Teams with NLSI

The virtual NLSI, NASA's Lunar Science Institute, and the January 10 announcement naming the first of seven teams collaborating on the October 2011 LADEE lunar dust explorer has been followed up by a flurry of institutional press releases. The vital and essential Lunar and Planetary Institute, on the verge of celebrating its 40th anniversary, is no exception.

COLUMBIA, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is proud to announce NASA's recent selection of a team of scientists from USRA's Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to be one of seven initial members of NASA's Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). The NLSI, a new organization managed by NASA Ames Research Center and designed to supplement and extend existing NASA lunar science programs, is modeled on NASA's Astrobiology Institute and features teams across the US working to help lead research activities related to lunar exploration goals.

The LPI/JSC team is lead by Dr. David Kring, visiting scientist for the Lunar Exploration Initiative at the LPI and recognized expert in the planetary sciences. The team will use the latest technology to determine if a storm of bombarding asteroids and comets resurfaced the Earth and moon 3.5 to 4 billion years ago and will investigate whether any bombardment may have affected the origin and early evolution of life on Earth. The LPI/JSC efforts have a strong university component as faculty and students at the University of Houston, University of Arizona, University of Maryland, The University of Notre Dame and Rice University will be directly involved in the scientific research and the team has organized a consortium of 12 universities throughout Texas to provide educational opportunities for their students.

"NASA has created a unique opportunity for our team to integrate lunar science with the human exploration program," said Kring. "Our program will help drive the growth of our nation's technical capabilities, while simultaneously creating paths of opportunity for students interested in cutting-edge space science."

Most of the LPI/JSC team's work at JSC will be conducted by the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate, which will be integrated with the Office for Lunar and Planetary Exploration in the Constellation Systems Program Office. "I am delighted with the opportunity to be part of one the initial member teams of the agency's Lunar Science Institute," said Eileen Stansbery, director of Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science at JSC. "The NLSI is a very important initiative for NASA's future. Our research effort builds on our respective institution's lunar science capabilities and will provide important input for the Constellation Program."

About the LPI

The Lunar and Planetary Institute, a division of the Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo missions to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program. Today the LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary research.

About USRA

The Universities Space Research Association, established in 1969 by the National Academy of Sciences, is a private, nonprofit consortium of 102 universities offering advanced degrees in space- and aeronautics-related disciplines. USRA's mission is to conduct leading-edge research, develop innovative technologies, promote education and policy across the breadth of space science, and operate premier science and technology facilities by involving universities, private industry and government.

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