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FINESSE Deputy PI wins prestigious NASA science award

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

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Dr. Anthony (Tony) Colaprete of NASA Ames’ Space Science & Astrobiology Division/Planetary Systems Branch was the Principal investigator of the LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) mission and is currently the Deputy Principal Investigator of our FINESSE team funded by NASA’s SSERVI (Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute). He and the LCROSS team, of which several FINESSE teammates were important members (including J. Heldmann & R. Elphic), won the H. Julian Allen award– one of NASA Ames’ highest honors.

The award recognizes the following scientific paper for outstanding significance in confirming the presence of water on the Moon:

Colaprete, A., P. Schultz, J. Heldmann, D. Wooden, M. Shirley, K. Ennico, B. Hermalyn, W. Marshall, A. Ricco, R. Elphic, D. Goldstein, D. Summy, G. Bart, E. Asphaug, D. Korycansky, D. Landis, L. Sollitt, 2010: “Detection of Water in the LCROSS Ejecta Plume“. Science, 330, 463 (22 October 2010), doi: 10.1126/science.1186986.

Congratulations again to the team!  For more information on this award, please visit the SSERVI news story.

FINESSE team presents at NASA Exploration Science Forum

Thursday, July 21st, 2016


Multiple FINESSE team members contributed presentations to the annual NASA Exploration Science Forum (ESF) sponsored by the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). The ESF is held each July at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, CA.  Both poster and oral presentations from FINESSE team members were focused on the ongoing field research at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, USA. The ESF provides the unique opportunity to merge both science and exploration interests to further our studies of the Moon, asteroids, and moons of Mars.

FINESSE Lead at New York Academy of Sciences

Thursday, July 14th, 2016


Jennifer Heldmann was invited to serve on a panel discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences pertaining to STEM careers in planetary and space exploration. The panel was moderated by Astronomy Professor Jeff Bary and featured Heldmann and former NASA Astronaut Michael Massimino as panelists. Co-hosted by Colgate University, the event was held at the World Trade Center offices of the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City and served as a kick-off event for the new STEM professional network to encourage and guide students in pursuing careers in space sciences.

CSA astronaut & FINESSE team member David Saint-Jacques selected as next Canadian to launch to International Space Station

Thursday, July 7th, 2016


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The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has selected David Saint-Jacques as the next Canadian astronaut to fly to the International Space Station (ISS). Saint-Jacques is a member of the SSERVI / FINESSE team and was on the FINESSE expedition to West Clearwater Impact Structure (WCIS) in northern Canada. During the FINESSE expedition, Saint-Jacques assisted with scientific research of the impact site at WCIS and also participated in research to determine optimal training for astronauts to conduct field geology on other worlds.  Saint-Jacques will launch aboard a Soyuz rocket for a six month mission aboard the ISS. For more information on the upcoming mission, visit the CSA website here.

Dr. Alexander Sehlke begins FINESSE post-doctoral research fellowship

Monday, February 22nd, 2016


The FINESSE project is pleased to announce that Dr. Alexander Sehlke started his NASA post-doctoral fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center in February 2016. His research will focus on the physical and thermal properties of the rocks (e.g., rock chemistry, crystallinity, density and viscosity, heat capacity, thermal diffusivity) to reconstruct the rheological properties of the lavas erupted at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho, which govern the development of the diverse lava flow morphologies observed in the area. Alex’s research on the volcanic rocks of Idaho will serve as analogs for similar rocks found on our Moon.  This work is a continuation of Alexander’s PhD work at the University of Missouri – Columbia under the supervision of Dr. Alan Whittington, where he studied the rheological evolution of lavas erupted on Earth and other planets and Moons in order to correlate lava rheology to lava flow surface morphology.

FINESSE Co-I Wins NASA Safety Award

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

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The FINESSE Team is proud to congratulate Linda Kobayashi of NASA Ames Research Center for winning the 2015 NASA Safety Award.  Linda is responsible for orchestrating and arranging the logistics for all FINESSE field deployments.  She is our Lead Safety Officer and not only devises a field plan to ensure the safety and productivity of the team, but also complies with all NASA safety rules and regulations, and is responsible for securing NASA safety board approval for all FINESSE deployments.  Linda’s hard work and dedication keep the FINESSE team safe during all field excursions, and we are very happy to see her recognized by NASA for this important work.

Spaceward Bound Teacher Jeff Karlin wins prestigious award

Thursday, October 8th, 2015


Jeff Karlin, a participant of the NASA FINESSE Spaceward Bound program for the past two years, was honored last week for being one of the top instructors in the state of Idaho.  Karlin currently teaches marine biology, zoology, physics, and astronomy.  He says he’s inspired everyday by his students and his curriculum.  With his innovative teaching style and passion for learning, Karlin has been a key asset to the NASA FINESSE Spaceward Bound program.  He has participated in numerous Spaceward Bound field deployments with NASA over the years, and due to his experience and expertise, has been promoted to Lead Spaceward Bound Teacher as a Field Lead within the FINESSE program.

Karlin joins three other teachers in receiving these top honors from the state of Idaho.  All four teachers will advance as the state’s representative to the National Presidential Award for Excellence in mathematics and science in teaching.
One educator will be named Idaho’s top science teacher, and will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.

A news story featuring Karlin and his well deserved recognition as a top educator in Idaho can be viewed here.

New NASA technology revolutionizes planetary fieldwork

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015


New NASA technology is currently being developed, tested, and actively used in a planetary field campaign to revolutionize the efficiency, productivity, and safety of a human crew while collecting critical scientific data to characterize lava flows similar to flows on the Moon and Mars.  A team led by Michael Downs and Juan Busto at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center have developed a unique methodology for collecting high precision surface topography data from a UAV platform.  The KSC team has spent the past two years refining the instrumentation and analysis techniques, working with FINESSE scientists to meet stringent science data accuracy requirements, and comparing the UAV data with ground-truth data collected by researchers on the ground to validate this new data collection approach.  The UAV topography data has proven so reliable that this new platform is replacing the traditional differential Global Positioning System (dGPS) method of ground data collection.  dGPS is a very laborious process, requires a high number of person-hours to complete, and requires researchers to travel by foot over often treacherous and distant terrains to gather the required datasets.  The KSC UAV system has dramatically increased the efficiency, productivity, and safety of the data collection efforts, and serves as a template for planetary data collection procedures for future exploration of other worlds including the Moon, Mars, and asteroids.

FINESSE Research Highlighted in News Media

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

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Media Coverage for 2015 FINESSE Field Deployment

The Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration (FINESSE) and Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains (BASALT) teams are in the midst of completing the 2015 field deployment.  As a result of this exciting planetary science research being conducted on the lava fields of Idaho, several news outlets in Idaho have featured the FINESSE and BASALT projects in television, print, and online outlets.  A sample of the press coverage is listed below!

ABC News 8 / KIDK CBS News 3

Evening newscast highlighting FINESSE and BASALT research – watch the video here.

KPVI Channel 6 (NBC) featured FINESSE and BASALT research in the evening and morning newscasts – watch the video here.

NASA Studying Unique Lava Flow Features in East Idaho

One of our own backyard gems in Eastern Idaho Craters of the Moon National Monument is serving as the study grounds for NASA, and other organizations, to learn more about other planets and moons in our solar system.

Two NASA field programs, the Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration (FINESSE) and Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains (BASALT), are conducting a two week field campaign to generate strategic knowledge in preparation for human and robotic exploration of other planets and moons in our solar system. The unique lava fields of craters of the moon national monument help researchers by resembling features found on other planets.

Jennifer Heldmann, a NASA Research Scientist, says, “This is the perfect place for us to come and study lavas, not only to understand what’s happening in Idaho and here on our planet Earth, but then also to understand there are very similar features here in Idaho as what we see on the moon for example.

Remote sensing instruments, such as drones, are being used in the study and are equipped with cameras or laser systems that help scientists analyze areas that you might not be able to get to normally.
Jennifer Heldmann explains why these non-contact science experiments are so beneficial.

“To figure out how do we do the science on the Moon and on Mars. What are the instruments you need to take? How long does it take the people to collect the samples? What are the samples that you need to get? So really we practice here in Idaho, at Craters of Moon, before we send people to the Moon, before we send them on to Mars, asteroids, etc.”

Several professors and students from Idaho State University’s Geo-Sciences Department, along with local high school science teachers, are embedded with NASA scientists in the research and are incorporating what they’re learning back home in the classroom.

“It’s access to incredible technologies, it’s access to top minds doing active science… I’m able to re-order science lessons, use the new technologies, assist kids in the latest ways and it’s been absolutely beneficial to my career as well as, hopefully, my students” said Jeff Karlin, an Idaho High School Teacher.

FINESSE Science & Exploration Work presented at NASA Exploration Science Forum

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

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FINESSE team members presented the most recent science and exploration research results at NASA’s annual Exploration Science Forum at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.  Multiple presentations from team members were included in the meeting program, including talks by Brent Garry (discussing lunar volcanic analog features in Idaho), Derek Sears (presenting an overview of asteroid science), Noah Petro (discussing the South Pole Aitken Basin on the Moon), Barbara Cohen (reviewing the Lunar Flashlight mission), Kris Zacny (outlining plans for lunar drilling), Tony Colaprete (summarizing studies of meteoroid impacts on the Moon), and Jennifer Heldmann (discussing the future of planetary science field campaigns).  Multiple FINESSE poster presentations were included in the meeting as well.  All talks are archived here!

Upcoming Activities

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SSERVI / Exploration Science Forum
July 2016
The Exploration Science Forum brings together the Science and Exploration communities to discuss current research regardin the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, and Phobos & Deimos.
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Third International Conference on the Exploration of Phobos & Deimos
July 2016
The Third International Conference on the Exploration of Phobos and Deimos, subtitled The Science, Robotic Reconnaissance, and Human Exploration of the Two Moons of Mars, will be the third international meeting focused on Phobos and Deimos, and on how their exploration relates to that of other small bodies, Mars, and the rest of the Solar System.

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Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (COTM), Idaho, USA

Prime FINESSE COTM field deployment:
Summer 2016


International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN)

October 8, 2016
InOMN is a world-wide outreach event to encourage people to observe and learn about our nearest celestial neighbor, the Moon. The InOMN website can be found here.
Division of Planetary Sciences
October 16-21, 2016
The Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) annual meeting will be held in Pasadena, CA.  This meeting brings together researchers studying planetary objects to present and discuss cutting-edge planetary science.
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American Geophysical Union
December 12-16, 2016
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting is one of the most prestigious Earth and space sciences meeting worldwide.  AGU is held each December in San Francisco, CA.

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