NASA picks Texas Tech professor’s heat probe for future moon landing

NASA picks Texas Tech professor’s heat probe for future moon landing
Commercial landers will carry NASA-provided science and technology payloads to the lunar surface by 2024.

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Texas Tech’s Seiichi Nagihara is one of 12 people who have been selected by NASA through the Artemis lunar program, with the goal of sending astronauts to the moon by 2024 as preparation for sending humans to Mars.

This selection means a heat flow probe Nagihara – an associate professor in the Department of Geosciences – has been designing for more than a decade will go to the moon on future flights through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services project, according to NASA.

Called the Lunar Instrumentation for Subsurface Thermal Exploration with Rapidity or LISTER, Nagihara’s instrument will measure heat flow from the interior of the moon by drilling 7-10 inches into a layer of loose deposits. This instrument will investigate thermal properties of the Moon at different depths.

The name LISTER is also important because it pays homage to Clive Lister, a professor at the University of Washington who contributed to the study of heat flow through ocean floors on Earth from the 1970s to 1990s, according to a Tech news release.

Nagihara will work with Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California along with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena; the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona and the University of Notre Dame to build and test the LISTER. The team will also deliver the product to NASA, though a timeline has not been finalized yet – the team does expect it to be done in the next two-to-three-years.

For the time being, NASA will also decide which company’s commercial lander will carry LISTER and when.

“It is a dream come true for a planetary scientist like me to conduct experiments on an extraterrestrial body with an instrument built to your own specifications,” Nagihara said in a Tech news release. “Not many planetary scientists get this kind of opportunity in their lifetime, so I consider myself extremely fortunate and humble. I’m grateful for NASA to give my team this opportunity. I also feel blessed to have highly capable scientists and engineers on my team. At the same time, the pressure is on. Now my team needs to deliver on our promises.”

The list of 12 people selected by NASA can be found here.

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