St. Louis Scientists and Impossible Sensing Receive $3 Million Grant from NASA

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Insider Brief:

  • Scientists at Washington University, in collaboration with Impossible Sensing have secured a $3 million grant from NASA.
  • The grant will contribute to the development of a cutting-edge sensor tailored for future moon missions.
  • The project aims to deliver a flight-ready instrument within three years and is planned to be deployed aboard Commercial Lunar Payload Service missions.

Scientists at Washington University, in collaboration with Impossible Sensing, a St. Louis startup, have secured a $3 million grant from NASA. The grant aims to fund the development of a cutting-edge sensor tailored for future moon missions.

The innovative sensor is poised to transform our understanding of the moon’s geology by enabling precise measurement of the chemistry and composition of rocks and soil. Leading the project, Jeffrey Gillis-Davis, a research professor at Wash U, explains that the sensor employs a laser to generate plasma, emitting distinct light signatures that reveal elemental concentrations, akin to a fingerprint as reported by stlpr.

Funded through NASA’s Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation Commercial Payload Service (DALI) program, the project aims to deliver a flight-ready instrument within three years. Once completed, the sensor will be primed for deployment aboard Commercial Lunar Payload Service (CLPS) missions, facilitating private companies’ delivery of payloads to the moon’s surface for NASA.

Gillis-Davis underscores the significance of exploring previously uncharted regions of the moon, such as its poles and far side, to unveil new insights into its composition. He emphasizes the potential of the sensor to detect minute mineral features, offering invaluable data for understanding lunar evolution and addressing fundamental questions about Earth’s history.

Pablo Sobron, co-investigator and founder of Impossible Sensing, highlights the broader implications of the technology beyond lunar exploration. By streamlining instrument size, power consumption, and operation, the sensor holds promise for cost-effective solutions in space and terrestrial applications, ranging from agriculture to marine exploration.

Moreover, the project underscores St. Louis’ emerging role as a hub for innovative space technologies, leveraging its legacy in aerospace manufacturing. Gillis-Davis and Sobron expressed optimism about inspiring future generations of scientists and engineers within the region, building on its rich history of space exploration.

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