The Center For Lunar And Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS) Proposal: A Structure For Exploration Science And Problem-Solving

Critical to the success of NASA’s future will be the robotic and human exploration and interactions with the surfaces of atmosphere-less bodies such as Near-Earth Asteroids, Martian Moons, and our Moon. The physical, gravitational, dynamic, chemical/mineralogical, regolith, and resource environment of these bodies pose unique challenges to exploration including a range of safety and operational issues for human-lead missions. The solutions to these challenges require major cross-disciplinary investigations that call for the sustained interaction between planetary dynamicists, astronomers, meteoritists, geologists, engineers, and operations specialists.  We propose to address these exploration issues by creating at the University of Central Florida an environment that maximizes the cross-discipline interactions between the diverse specializations of the members of our institute. Our goal is to create the virtual institute that provides a range of venues for routine and sustained cross-feed of ideas and problem-solving approaches directed at the exploration of small bodies and the Moon. The science focus is fundamentally how explorers can interact with the surfaces of these worlds.  This includes materials properties, surface processes, impact processes, dynamical evolution, low-gravity processes, and regolith processes of atmosphereless bodies.