Johns Hopkins APL team lauded for Lunar Technology Leadership

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The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) team that established a national, cross-sector consortium to help advance and develop new lunar surface technology will be awarded one of NASA Headquarters’ 2020 Honor Awards — its highest form of recognition — for its outstanding contributions to the agency’s mission.

The Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium, or LSIC, is led by APL’s Space Exploration Sector and is sponsored by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). It brings together innovators from the nation’s universities, nonprofit organizations, commercial companies and government agencies to help NASA keep the United States at the forefront of lunar exploration.

Close-up of a woman standing at podium in front of conference audience
Rachel Klima, an APL planetary geologist and the director of LSIC, addresses the audience during LSIC"s kickoff meeting in February 2020. She is one of seven who will receive NASA Headquarters' 2020 Honor Award on behalf of the whole team.
Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

“The team at APL has been incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to assist NASA in harnessing the creativity of the nation in the effort to return to the Moon,” said LSIC Director Rachel Klima, a planetary geologist at APL. It has been a privilege working with NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate on this effort, and having the team recognized means so much to us.”

LSIC was organized in 2019, shortly after the establishment of NASA’s Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII), an effort to catalyze the development of technology that will enable future robotic and human exploration of the Moon, and help meet the demands of the Artemis program’s accelerated timeline.

In February 2020, more than 250 people from industry, academia, nonprofits and government met at APL in the consortium’s kickoff. Over half of those attendees had never worked with NASA before, according to NASA LSII Program Executive Niki Werkheiser, providing the organization ample opportunities to foster new partnerships in technology development. 

After that success, the APL LSIC team was nominated for the award. What started with the work of a small team grew to include about two dozen APL staff members after the February kickoff meeting, and the team is expanding again to provide robust support for six technology focus areas for STMD.

Close-up of man standing at podium in front of NASA and Artemis background
Michael Paul, a mission formulation systems engineer at APL, speaks during LSIC's kickoff meeting in February 2020. He is one of seven who will receive NASA Headquarters' 2020 Honor Award on behalf of the whole team. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

LSIC has continued to build on the kickoff meeting’s success by setting up multiple lines of communication and collaboration that can operate through the COVID-19 global pandemic, including virtual meetings, collaborative web pages, message boards and even a monthly newsletter to provide updates, upcoming events, meeting summaries and member spotlights.

“We plan to continue interfacing with the community to build an inclusive and innovative environment, helping to ensure that brilliant ideas have the opportunity to be developed and that NASA can invest its money wisely,” Klima said. “I think it says a lot that NASA has made engaging the community a priority, and we look forward to continue serving them as a conduit for communication.”

Seven LSIC team members from APL will officially receive the award on behalf of the entire APL team that made the kickoff meeting a success. The awards will be given during the NASA Headquarters 2020 Honor Awards Ceremony on Jan. 26. Due to the global pandemic, the ceremony will be prerecorded and the awards presented virtually.

Banner Image: APL Director Ralph Semmel speaks in February 2020 during the first meeting of the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC), a national, cross-sector organization to help advance the development of lunar surface technology. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

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