Dust, Rings and Origins

The standard model of planet formation proceeds from the gravitational collapse of an interstellar cloud of gas and dust through collisional accretion of solids into planetesimals and eventual runaway growth to form the terrestrial and giant planets. A critical stage of that process is the growth of solid bodies from mm-sized chondrules and aggregates to Read More …

Extraterrestrial Soil Mechanics

Regolith is a complex granular material. Even in well-known terrestrial settings, the behavior of regolith is difficult to explain from fundamental physics, so computer models are based on experiments instead. Without adequate experimental data from other planets, it is challenging or impossible to predict how their regolith surfaces will behave. This is important for interpreting Read More …

Human Space Exploration

Human space exploration missions beyond near Earth orbit cannot occur without a validated approach to addressing crew safety risks due to radiation. This requires careful characterization of the space environment, experimental validation of radiation protection methods, the ability to predict real-time radiation dose and monitor crew exposure. The goal is to dynamically integrate all the Read More …

Observations of Small Bodies in the Solar System

Small bodies are rocky and/or icy objects, ranging in size from a few meters to a few thousands of kilometers. They comprise near-Earth and main belt asteroids, Trojans, trans-Neptunian objects, Centaurs, comets, and a recently discovered category called the transitional objects. Their physical nature, distribution, formation, and evolution are fundamental to understand how the solar Read More …

Space Resources

Studies have shown that the cost of space exploration can be dramatically reduced if we rely upon resources that are already in space, rather than launching everything we need from Earth. In fact, some studies have suggested that the cost of doing Mars missions might be reduced by a factor of 3 to 5. Space Read More …