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What We Do

The Space Science and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center provides unique interdisciplinary scientific expertise and capabilities that advance human understanding of the Molecular Evolution in the Galaxy, the Evolution and Formation of Planetary Systems, and our Understanding of the Origin and Evolution of Life in the Universe. Our core science capabilities in theoretical, observational, experimental, and instrument development work are focused to enhance and enable the science and exploration goals of NASA and the scientific community.


The Division’s scientific breadth and depth provide the Agency with a unique interdisciplinary workforce utilizing multidisciplinary teams of astronomers, astrophysicists, chemists, microbiologists, physicists, and planetary scientists and organized into different research teams:

Mission Participation

Lunar Missions

We are very proud of Tony Colaprete who is the principal investigator on the LCROSS mission (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) that was selected as the Secondary Payload for the LRO mission. LCROSS delivered a 2000 kg impactor that created a plume of lunar ejecta which was observed by multiple Earth and space-based assets. From this mission, we have learned that the Cabeus Crater near the south pole of the Moon contains ice and other volatiles within the permanently shadowed region, and we are learning about the nature of the lunar regolith at this location as well. You can read more about the LCROSS mission at ABC News, Popular Mechanics,, Astronomy Today, and just to name a few.
NASA Ames developed the mission sent to the Moon called LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer). LADEE gathered detailed information about conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.  A thorough understanding of these influences is helping researchers predict how future lunar exploration may shape the moon’s environment and how the environment may affect future explorers.
NASA Ames scientist Rick Elphic is the LADEE Project Scientist while Tony Colaprete is the PI for the ultraviolet-visible spectrometer instrument.

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AS11-40-5954 (20 July 1969) — This crater which was located near the point the Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) touched down on the moon was photographed by the Apollo 11 astronauts during their lunar surface extravehicular activity (EVA). Dark shadows obscure much of the crater wall in the background. Michael Collins, command module pilot, remained with the Command and Service Modules (CSM) in lunar orbit while Neil A. Armstrong, commander, and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, explored the moon. The object in the foreground is the Apollo 11 35mm stereo close-up camera.