When we go back to the Moon, we'll need to employ geophysics to study its interior and will glean important insights into understanding the origin of the Earth-Moon system. In the process, we'll also learn valuable information to help people live and work on the lunar surface. For example, we can characterize the seismic hazard and find resources of interest in the subsurface.

Back in January 2010, I joined a small group of like-minded terrestrial and planetary geophysicists at the LunarGeo2010 meeting, which was held at Arizona State University. The LROC Outreach team was there interviewing some meeting participants on camera for their LRO Live! education and public outreach project. My interview video surfaced on the web yesterday:

It was an honor to be included in the LROC Live! video project along with others such as Astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt (a geologist who holds the record for EVA time on the Moon), Astronaut Drew Feustel (who fixed Hubble and is the only current geophysicist-astronaut), and Barbara Cohen (who heads the U.S. component of the International Lunar Network). Dr. Schmitt gave a very well-thought-out rationale why we should return to the Moon that I'd like to share with you now:

More videos are on the LRO Live! YouTube channel.

When the Space Shuttle first launched in 1981, I was only 3 years old. Although I was too young to remember the earliest Shuttle missions, the STS program served as an inspiration to me throughout my life. The astronauts floating in microgravity above the majestic Earth became my heros and affected the trajectory of my life. I always wanted to see a Shuttle launch firsthand, but I never had the opportunity. Until now.

Fellow MDRS crewmember Carla Haroz, who works for NASA, obtained a rare pass to see the STS-132 launch. She generously invited the entire MDRS-89 crew to join her at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to see the Shuttle leave Earth. The May 14 launch date couldn't have been more convenient for me since I was already on the continent anyway for the UND Capstone week. Not everyone from the 6-member MDRS crew could attend the launch, unfortunately. Even Carla couldn't be there since she had to be in Moscow to work on the Russian segment of ISS mission control. However, three MDRS crewmembers plus some of Carla's other friends were able to be at the launch. You can see the smiling group here.


A funny thing happened on my way to Mars. I went to North Dakota.

Nearly three years ago, I began my studies in the Space Studies Department at the University of North Dakota (UND). Since then, I've been working towards earning a MS degree in Space Studies by taking a steady stream of one or two courses at a time. The interdisciplinary distance education program has been both immensely rewarding and challenging. A lot has happened in my life along the way, including the birth of my son, my NASA astronaut application, the FMARS and MDRS expeditions to analog Mars, and most recently the founding of Astronauts4Hire.

Last week, I participated in the UND Capstone experience.  This was my first time on the UND campus, and I was very impressed with the School of Aerospace facilities. It was a little surreal to finally meet my professors in person since I felt like I already knew them pretty well after watching their lecture videos and corresponding with them for all this time.  Capstone is a required two-semester course consisting of a collaborative team project on an interdisciplinary topic related to space studies.

The Capstone week was also the first time our eight-person capstone team had an opportunity to meet face-to-face. I can't stress enough how important that was to our project. We almost got more done in the last three days on campus than we had done in the previous three months. During the final hours leading up to our big presentation, we worked feverishly on integrating our report, which proposes a feasible, incremental strategy to land humans on Mars in 20 years.  If you're curious what we proposed, I suggest you see our Executive Summary report, which is on the MEP project website.

Last week I gave a presentation to ninth graders in Lovington, NM. It dealt with my scientific career and astronaut ambitions. Hopefully I showed the kids that science is fun and a great way to see the world. They are lucky to be in New Mexico, which is fast-becoming a hub of the commercial spaceflight revolution.

This was the second time I've given a presentation of this kind remotely via Skype; the first was to my high school last year. I've had a busy year with my FMARS and MDRS missions, founding of A4H, and near-completion of the UND Space Studies degree (more on that in the next post).

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