Brown University students help develop moon mission

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Students at Brown University have come up with a number of questions they hope will be answered during a future mission to the moon.

Jim Head recently taught a Brown University planetary science class which actively involved students in the planning of a moon mission.

“The course was the factual aspects about the moon and what the major outstanding questions are,” Head said.

Head worked with the Apollo program, training astronauts and selecting landing sites, so working with students on another lunar mission was a natural fit. The class worked with the private company, OrbitBeyond, which already has a lander and a rover.

“We met (OrbitBeyond) last year.  We really got to learn about their lander capabilities, rover capabilities and where exactly they think they’d be able to go,” said Ashley Palumbo, a Brown Ph.D. student.

The group of graduate students and undergrads decided the rover should study impact craters, lava flows and the regolith (moon dirt) to help piece together some lunar mysteries — information that could be used in future missions.

Palumbo said that it’s important for so many reasons.

“One of the reasons is we hope to send humans to the moon in the future, and by going to different regions of the moon, we can see what resources are available,” she said.

The class plotted rover paths near the landing site in the Imbrium Basin on the moon.

“Being in this class was an incredible opportunity, especially as a student because we weren’t only learning about what science was done on the moon, but we were focusing on what science is yet to be resolved,” said Ariel Deutsch, who is also a Ph.D. student at Brown.

“Clearly they’re going to be leaders at NASA in the future, and they’ve already got a jump start on this by doing this project,” Head added.

OrbitBeyond hopes to launch the moon mission in 2020.

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