This summer, Ben and I are taking part in the Exploration Science Summer Intern Program at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, Texas. We arrived at the end of May to start the 10-week program which is open to graduate students with backgrounds in geology and planetary science. This summer we are joined by eight other interns from universities in the US, Canada, Germany and the UK.
The internship got off to an amazing start with a tour around the Apollo curatorial facilities at NASA Johnson Space Center. They are stored in a clean room which required us to wear bunny suites, which always makes for great photos! Inside, we shown where the Apollo collection is stored and even got a chance to hold some of the samples. One of the highlights was seeing the “Genesis Rock”, an Apollo 15 anorthosite which was part of the Moon’s primitive crust.
For the past two weeks, we’ve been working in two groups of five on tasks related to the Schrödinger basin, an impact crater on the far side of the Moon in the south pole region. The Schrödinger basin is a great place for lunar exploration as the variety of rocky types and geological features allows many key lunar science questions to be addressed. So far, our work has involved using remote sensing techniques and looking at high resolution images of the lunar surface taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). We have also been using a great new website called Moon Trek which was developed by a team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Moon Trek allows you to view the Moon using a 3D tool and to experience virtual reality fly-overs of the lunar surface.
It’s not all work though! We’ve already manged to cram a lot of fun activities into the short time we’ve been here. We recently drove down to Galveston and spent a very hot day enjoying the beach front and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. In the same weekend, we also went to a country dancing bar and enjoyed a bit of mechanical bull riding!
Naturally, we’ve already made our first trip to Space Centre Houston. They have a wealth of space related displays and tours which allow you to see the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility where astronauts train for current missions. We also got to see Rocket Park where a Saturn V rocket is housed – it was much bigger than the Lego version we use for outreach events! They also have some Apollo rocks on display and there was even the opportunity to touch a real piece of the Moon. I’m sure we’ll be back for at least one more visit before the end of the internship!
Overall, we’ve settled in to life in Houston well…although I don’t think we’ll get over how hot it is here compared to Manchester! It’s been a great start to the internship though and we are looking forward to seeing where the project will take us and experiencing all that Houston and Texas has to offer. Keep an eye out for future blog posts for updates on what we get up to!