UNM Institute of Meteoritics Senior Research Scientist Chip Shearer is a co-lead of the UNM Grand Challenges Level 2 Sustainable Space Research team, which aims to develop a hub of space science exploration at the university.
The center of excellence will bring together existing and upcoming work at UNM, including on space exploration research and technology, and will elevate New Mexico’s role in the expanding field.
“Now is a critical time for UNM and New Mexico to invest in space research,” said Shearer, who is also a research professor at the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
“Space exploration has entered a renaissance with humans reaching out to the edge of our solar system and beyond and seeking to explore and develop the Earth-Moon system.”
The federal government is continuing to invest in exploration of the Moon and Mars through NASA and the Air Force, he said.
Also co-leading the team with Shearer are Maryam Hojati, an assistant professor in the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department, and Kristina Yu, a professor in the School of Architecture and Planning.
The project includes “identifying and uniting relevant and diverse space expertise and maturing an appropriate research-technology infrastructure” and the team will partner with national laboratories, private companies and students – including at branch campuses – to build a space economy and work force in the state.
Shearer said UNM has been successful in several space-related efforts so far, including work leading international NASA teams closely linked to the NASA Artemis Program to return humans to the Moon, and in receiving other money for space research.
While some may still see space exploration as futuristic, the Artemis Program calls for establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.
At UNM, the team’s work will involve collaborations across campus including in architecture, biology, chemistry, earth and planetary sciences, engineering, humanities, physics and astronomy and the law and medical schools.
Shearer said such broad collaborations are needed to help build an Earth-Moon space economy that starts close to home.
“The Sustainable Space Research Grand Challenge will support a broad university, commercial, and national laboratory collaborative effort to enable New Mexico and New Mexicans to participate in this scientific, exploration, and economic adventure beyond Earth,” he said.