School of Mines and CU-Boulder Partner in Virtual Institute

Golden, Colorado. June 27, 2014 – The Colorado School of Mines Center for Space Resources is partnering in a virtual institute with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Along with international collaborators from Belgium, Canada, Germany, and Russia, the two Colorado schools will participate in the Institute for Modeling Plasma, Atmospheres, and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT), which has been awarded a five-year, $6 million NASA grant.

The research to be conducted at IMPACT will contribute to safeguarding interplanetary missions against dust and radiation hazard, and sustaining robotic and/or human presence once a destination is reached, be it the Moon, near-Earth objects or the moons of Mars.

IMPACT’s experimental network includes a newly developed hypervelocity dust accelerator, a series of tabletop dusty plasma experiments, and an extensive series of labs for developing new instrument concepts. IMPACT follows on CU’s previous Institute, the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies (CCLDAS).

The Mines research effort will be led by professors Angel Abbud-Madrid, Christopher Dreyer and George Gilmer. Mines will draw on its rich heritage for the design and operation of mechanical systems.

“In the future, these mechanical systems will excavate, drill, and extract the necessary resources to sustain our presence at any of the possible planetary destinations,” said Abbud-Madrid, director of Mines’ Center for Space Resources.

Interplanetary dust, solar wind plasma, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation interact with all airless bodies within the solar system. These processes play critical roles in shaping the surface and near-surface properties of airless bodies including: surface charging, space weathering, dust transport, production of ejecta, and the existence of dilute exospheres.

The hazards due to dust impacts and energetic solar wind plasma particles need to be recognized and mitigated to safeguard the journey of human and robotic missions in interplanetary space. Understanding the physical properties of the surfaces of target bodies and developing abilities for In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) prospecting and exploitation are critical to sustaining our presence at any of humanity’s possible destinations.