How Do We Go Beyond Earth From Inside The Classroom?
February 16, 2017
Humans have always pioneered and looked for new places to explore and settle. Past trips have taken us and our technologies to the moon and allowed us to see things we never imagined. Knowing our own solar system is a crucial part of beginning investigations outside our galaxy.
Higher education, through its very mission of inquiry and research, plays a role in outer space exploration through programs, courses, and research offered on campuses. Just at SUNY, Binghamton University, University at Buffalo, SUNY Geneseo and Stony Brook University are all part of The National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. This program was designed to broaden the base of universities and individuals contributing to and benefiting from aerospace science and technology and ultimately contribute to the development and utilization of space resources. This is only one of the ways that SUNY has joined in on space exploration.
For each of us, our path to research and understanding of the unknown starts somewhere unique. Perhaps it is through a professor, another student, or a college staff member. This semester, Dr. Nicholas Warner of SUNY Geneseo is stoking curiosity about space for many students, using a rare collection of lunar rocks.
Dr. Warner, an alum of both SUNY Geneseo and University at Buffalo, has been a professor in the department of Geological Sciences at SUNY Geneseo for three years. Before Geneseo, he was a NASA postdoctoral fellow at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. There, he worked on Mars-related research and was a team member on the Opportunity rover and InSight. Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight, is a NASA Discovery Program mission that plans to place a single geophysical lander on Mars to study its deep interior. It goes beyond Mars and many hope InSight will help us figure out how different planets have been shaped.
At Geneseo, Dr. Warner still works on missions and projects related to the exploration of Mars. Geneseo, among other SUNY schools, offers a wide variety of astronomy and geology courses to its students. Warner teaches two upper level courses: Planetary Geology and Remote Sensing. The study and exploration of planetary surfaces in general usually falls under geology.
According to Dr. Warner, geology is a vast and important part of space exploration, but perhaps one that needs to be extended further. All those looking to land on another rocky planet need to have more than basic understandings of geology, including terrestrial geology, to be prepared to understand their surroundings.
“There was only one scientist who traveled with the Apollo astronauts during their missions to the Moon. His name was Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) and he was a classically trained field geologist. The other Apollo astronauts were trained by geologists to do geology during their mission,” Dr. Warner said.