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SwRI-led Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets selected as a founding member of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute

For immediate release

Nov. 05, 2013 — Boulder, Colo. — NASA has selected a team led by Southwest Research Institute to be a founding member of the agency’s new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). The recently formed team, known as the Institute for the Science of Exploration Targets, or ISET, will help build fundamental knowledge of the worlds directly accessible by astronauts in the future — such as the Moon, near-Earth asteroids and the satellites of Mars — by researching their origin, evolution and physical properties, as well as what their relatively pristine records tell us about the history of the Solar System.

An additional ISET goal is to better understand an intriguing set of bodies among the near-Earth asteroid population, called minimoons, that have the potential for cost-effective and practical human exploration.

ISET is one of eight teams selected by NASA to serve as members of SSERVI, which is dedicated to addressing potential ways human spaceflight can address fundamental space science questions. The $6 million, five-year, SwRI-led effort will combine state-of-the-art computer modeling with interpretation of spacecraft data to explore the diverse and interesting target bodies that humans may visit over the next several decades.

“Humans have visited the Moon, and robotic missions have given us access to other worlds, with each supplying its own piece of the story of how our planetary system formed,” says ISET Principal Investigator Dr. William Bottke, director of the Space Studies Department of the SwRI Planetary Science Directorate in Boulder, Colo. “The small bodies that ISET will study are fascinating objects in their own right and are central to deciphering the history of the inner Solar System.”

ISET research is focused on four scientific themes: the formation of the inner Solar System and asteroid belt; the origin of the Moon and the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos; the history of near-Earth asteroids and lunar bombardment; and the properties, populations, and new destinations offered by near-Earth asteroids and minimoons. The interdisciplinary ISET team comprises internationally recognized leaders from SwRI, the University of Colorado, the University of Hawaii and the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, as well as numerous collaborators from the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France and the United Kingdom.

ISET builds on SwRI’s previous NASA Lunar Science Institute team, the Center for Lunar Origin and Evolution (CLOE), established in January 2009 to expand our knowledge of the history of the Moon, the Earth and Solar System.

SSERVI is a virtual institute headquartered at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Its members are distributed among universities and research institutes across the United States and around the world. SSERVI is working to address fundamental science questions and issues that can help further human exploration of the Solar System. SSERVI is jointly supported by PSD (in SMD) and the Advanced Exploration Systems Division (in HEOMD).

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