Impact Stories @ Boise State

Dr JA Grier at KBSX

Boise State University invited TREX’s Dr. JA Grier to visit January 2-4, 2002 as part of their “First Friday” Astronomy Lecture series.  Dr. Grier’s presentation was titled “The Stories of Impact Craters: How Scientists Learn to Tell Them” and was given to an audience of about 100 students and members of the general public.  To promote the event, and to talk about lunar crater science to listeners, Dr. Grier was interviewed on Boise State Public Radio NPR (KBSX).  During the visit, Dr. Grier met with Boise State physics undergraduate students to discuss general research topics, as well as careers in lunar science.  There was also a tour given by the undergraduates of the Boise State Observatory to review the facility and talk about public outreach with the telescope.

Dr. JA Grier preps for her talk

Dr. Grier’s talk included stories, research, anecdotes, and facts around the science of impact craters, and how it is that scientists engage in that study.  Not as glamorous an occupation as it might be imagined, impact crater scientists spend a lot of time with their hands dirty with rocks, getting vehicles stuck in the mud, and visiting rustic locales.  But this all leads to collecting the evidence necessary to tell the story of impact craters – how and when they formed, how big and energetic the impacts were, and how the target environment changed from the impact.  This ground-based evidence is then compared to remote sensing data from spacecraft, allowing us to leverage our knowledge of craters on Earth to craters on the Moon and other worlds.  Dr. Grier’s work with TREX investigates how we can use remote sensing data to tell the story of lunar craters, and helps us to understand current processes as well as potential challenges to exploration.

Exploring the Moon from Orbit

On January 17, 2020, TREX’s Ryan Watkins spoke at the St Louis Astronomical Society meeting. In this 45 min presentation, Watkins focused on the big scientific discoveries from Apollo, and how we use LRO to evaluate potential future landing sites for human and robotic landed missions. According to Watkins:

Map of Landing sites.
Red: USSR/Russia, Blue/Green: USA, Yellow: Chinese (credit: NASA)

Apollo was one of, if not THE greatest, achievements of the 20th century. Apollo left an incredible legacy spanning culture, engineering, politics, and science that we are still learning from today. However, 50 years have passed since man first set foot on the Moon, and the US has not had a human or robotic presence on the lunar surface since. With the forthcoming Artemis program and international interest in the Moon, scientists and engineers are busy selecting the best landing sites for future missions. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was designed to gather information to help scientists and engineers plan NASA’s return to the Moon with robots and astronauts. Having been in orbit for 10 years now, scientists are equipped with a wealth of data for selecting future landing sites. Dr. Watkins discussed the most significant scientific discoveries of Apollo, as well as destinations that are being mapped out as top scientific sites for future lunar exploration. One of these destinations is south pole, which harbors water ice and is currently slated to be the destination for the first crewed mission to the lunar surface for the Artemis program. Other destinations of interest for both science and human exploration include the Aristarchus Plateau, lava pits, silicic volcanic areas, and lunar swirls. Continued lunar exploration is imperative for addressing unanswered scientific questions, practicing for longer-duration missions to Mars, harvesting resources, and fostering international collaborations.