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LPI Team Members Join the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

Washington, DC--May 15, 2023. NASA recently announced it had selected five new research teams to collaborate on lunar science and lunar sample analysis research to support future exploration of the Moon as part of the agency's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).

Among those selected are the Center for Advanced Sample Analysis of Astromaterials from the Moon and Beyond (CASA Moon) and the Center for Lunar Origin and Evolution (CLOE). CASA Moon is led by Dr. Charles (Chip) Shearer at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Drs. Lisa Gaddis and Julie Stopar at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) are co-investigators and part of the CASA Moon science team. CLOE is led by Dr. William Bottke at Southwest Research Institute, which includes Ms. Christine Shupla at the LPI as a co-investigator leading inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) efforts.

photo of Dr. Lisa Gaddis

Dr. Lisa Gaddis

Dr. Lisa Gaddis (LPI Director) will serve as a CASA Moon science team member, which will include research and mission operations and support roles as needed in these areas. Specifically, her role will focus on establishing linkages between existing orbital data, samples, future exploration sites, and upcoming data sets; connecting sample chronology, geochemistry, and mineralogy to orbital remote sensing data for lunar pyroclastic and other volcanic deposits; and investigating the compositional diversity of pyroclastic materials and understanding how they relate to the evolution of volcanism and the lunar interior.

Dr. Julie Stopar (LPI Senior Staff Scientist) will serve as a CASA Moon science team member studying the connections between sample chronology, geochemistry, and mineralogy with lunar orbital data; conducting focused investigations of cryptomaria and ancient basalts to refine the geochemical diversity of the earliest maria and lunar magmatism; characterizing the geochemical diversity of pyroclastics and how it informs the evolution of volcanism and the lunar interior; and establishing linkages between existing orbital data, samples, and future exploration sites.

photo of Dr. Julie Stopar

Dr. Julie Stopar

The CASA Moon node will provide a new perspective rooted in the investigation of samples, using various state-of-the-art techniques and newly available lunar materials. Emphasis is placed on the Moon, although these approaches directly apply to other planetary bodies. CASA Moon is a diverse, multi-generational team that builds on the contributions of Apollo and is forward-thinking in preparing for Artemis.

The science and exploration goals of CASA Moon are deciphering the origin, evolution, and chronology of the ancient lunar crust; understanding how and when the lunar crust was shaped through impact processes; interpreting the early evolution of the lunar mantle through ancient lunar basalts (>3.8 Ga); examining the origin, evolution, and utilization potential of lunar volatile reservoirs; and preparing for sample return from the Moon by Artemis.

Christine Shupla (LPI Science Engagement Manager) will serve as the IDEA liaison for the CLOE team, participating in and supporting the SSERVI IDEA activities and CLOE’s Community IDEA activities in partnership with NASA’s Neurodiversity Network (N3). Shupla will also support and help evaluate CLOE’s broader engagement activities and liaison between the Planetary ReaCH project and CLOE.

photo of Christine Shupla

Christine Shupla

The CLOE node will conduct basic research to support science enabled by human exploration of the Moon and the Endurance-A mission concept, a far-side lunar rover mission prioritized by the 2022 Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey report, “Origins, Worlds, and Life.” 

CLOE will focus on models of terrestrial planet formation and early lunar bombardment, the conditions of Earth-Moon origin, and how exploration of the SPA basin can allow us to better understand solar system formation and early evolution. Because the impact that formed SPA was so large, it almost certainly excavated material from the Moon’s deep interior. Collecting samples of these materials would significantly expand knowledge of the Moon’s bulk composition and subsurface volatile content — key data needed to reveal the conditions of the Earth-Moon origin and the thermochemical evolution of a young rocky world. 

Read the official NASA announcement: NASA Selects Five Teams to Study Lunar Science and Sample Analysis.

For more information about SSERVI, visit https://sservi.nasa.gov.