Jennifer L. Heldmann

Expertise: Planetary Science, Planetary Exploration, Analog Fieldwork
Affiliation: NASA Ames Research Center
Certification/Education: PhD (Geological Sciences / Planetary Science), University of Colorado at Boulder
MSc (Space Studies), University of North Dakota
BSc (Astrogeophysics), Colgate University

BASALT Research Objectives

Heldmann serves as the Principal Investigator for the NASA FINESSE project. She is responsible for the quality and direction of this work and is assisted by Deputy PIs Tony Colaprete and Darlene Lim. Heldmann is responsible for overseeing the analog field activities and ensuring an infusion of exploration-related findings into robotic and human exploration architecture designs. She is committed to enabling high quality science and exploration space science research while also fostering the excitement of Solar System research by providing student and teacher opportunities to participate in the NASA FINESSE program.


Jennifer Heldmann is a Research Scientist in the Division of Space Science and Astrobiology at NASA Ames Research Center. Her primary research focuses on studying volatile deposits on the Moon (and Mars) as well as understanding planetary geomorphology as an indicator of geologic processes working to shape the surfaces and interiors of planets. She is also keenly interested in human and robotic Solar System exploration and conducts research and fieldwork to optimize exploration strategies and architectures.

Heldmann has spent the past several decades conducting research using spacecraft data, numerical modeling, and terrestrial analog fieldwork. She has worked in analog environments such as the Outback of Australia, the Canadian High Arctic, the Atacama Desert, Spitsbergen, the Mojave Desert, and Antarctica, among other locales. Recent projects include the 2012 ISRU Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction (RESOLVE) field test, and the Mojave Volatiles Prospector (MVP) field program (2013-2014). Through this work, she actively participates in research and field campaigns to enable human and robotic exploration of the Solar System with tasks such as working in Science Operations Backrooms, serving as Science Lead for tactical and strategic science planning for human and robotic missions, assisting in the development of mission concepts and conops for multiple analog field campaigns, and conducting basic scientific research.

Heldmann is involved in planning for the future human exploration of the Solar System and has served on several MEPAG (Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group) special action teams for defining precursor activities needed to enable future human exploration and is active in LEAG (Lunar Exploration Analysis Group). She has also served as the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Lead for OSEWG (Optimizing Science and Exploration Working Group) at NASA Headquarters to connect SMD science objectives with NASA’s human exploration plans for the inner Solar System. She recently served on the Science Team, Payload Team, and as the Observation Campaign Coordinator for NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission to study the permanently shadowed regions of the lunar poles. LCROSS successfully impacted the Cabeus crater at the lunar south pole and confirmed the presence of water ice as well as numerous other volatile species on our Moon. She is currently a member of the Resource Prospector (RP) science team and helping to develop real-time science operations protocols and traverse plans for a lunar polar rover mission concept to explore lunar polar volatiles.