Public invited to RI Space Grant symposium in Ochre Court on April 25

The Rhode Island Space Grant Consortium will hold its annual symposium on Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Salve Regina University to highlight research work that is being done by students in the state with funding support from NASA. The event, free and open to the public, will be held in Ochre Court, 100 Ochre Point Ave.

Peter Schultz, program director, will present the keynote, “Making the Man on the Moon: Understanding the Results from the NASA GRAIL Mission.” In his talk, he will focus on a new model for creating the concentration of the dark maria on the lunar nearside. Various ideas have been proposed previously, including tidal forces on the moon when it was much closer to the earth, or simply heterogeneous accretion. This new idea proposes that a giant impact (hidden from view on the lunar farside) actually fractured much of the moon 4.3 billion years ago.

Other topics to be discussed during the day will include astrobiology (microbiology in terrestrial geologic settings, designing habitats for space, creating building blocks from organics, astronomy themes, and educational initiatives.

NASA’s Space Grant program was started by Congressional mandate in 1989 in order to ensure that NASA would continue to have access to a well-trained workforce of U.S. citizens in the areas of interest to the agency’s missions. These areas include science, technology, engineering and mathematics – the the so-called STEM fields – and geography.

Within each state, a consortium of colleges, universities and industrial partners collaborate to award fellowships, scholarships and internships to deserving graduate and undergraduate students in the STEM areas. Space Grant funds are also used for in-service training of pre-college STEM teachers.

In Rhode Island, Space Grant Fellows and Scholars can reach all borders within an hour and they share their passion for and knowledge about their research with teachers and their students face-to-face.

Faculty members from the state’s affiliate institutions also volunteer to travel the Ocean State to participate in outreach through a Speakers Bureau. One of the organization’s goals is to promote understanding of and interest in NASA’s mission to all levels of learners in Rhode Island.

The consortium now consists of 11 institutions of higher learning and numerous partnerships with museums, educators, and businesses. The Fellowship/Scholarship program is a key element. It not only supports undergraduate and graduate students participating in NASA-related research but also links them with the community through a close partnership with Rhode Island teachers and their students.