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Planetary Science




We study habitability and potential biosignatures across a wide variety of bodies in the Universe, ranging from early Earth to exoplanets.  Our work includes learning about the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, biosignature preservation in the geologic record, astronomical life detection techniques, the history of habitable environments across the Solar System, and the relationship between planetary habitability and stellar properties.  Faculty: Borlina, Horgan, Olson, Pearce

Planetary Atmospheres and Climate

Planetary Atmospheres and Climate


We use laboratory experiments and computer simulations to study cloud formation and atmospheric evolution on a range of planets.  We also analyze geological records in order to understand what they teach us about climate history on Earth, Mars, and beyond.  Faculty:  A. Johnson, Olson, Pearce, Tremblay

Planetary Geophysics

Planetary Geophysics


We study the interiors, geodynamics, tectonics, thermal evolution, and impact processes across the solid bodies of the Solar System using data returned from spacecraft missions and sophisticated numerical models.  Faculty: Borlina, Bramson, Freed, B. Johnson, Sori

Planetary Surfaces

Planetary Surfaces


We study the mineralogical, morphological, and tectonic evolution of planetary surfaces using remote sensing analysis, field and laboratory analog studies, and computational methods to understand the processes and environments that shape the landscapes of planets.  Faculty: Bramson, Horgan, B. Johnson, Minton, Sori, Thompson, Tremblay

Sample Analysis

Sample Analysis


We use state-of-the-art laboratory experiments to analyze extraterrestrial samples, including meteorites, Moon rocks returned by Apollo astronauts, and materials collected from asteroids.  Our techniques allow us to study the physical and chemical evolution of the surface of the Earth and other planets and moons.  Faculty: Borlina, Thompson, Tremblay

Solar System Dynamics

Solar System Dynamics


We use observations of populations of Solar System objects and their orbits, combined with computer simulations, to study the formation and evolution of planetary and satellite systems to understand how our Solar System and others developed through time.  Faculty: Minton

Spacecraft missions

Spacecraft Missions


We have been and are continuing to be involved with NASA and international spacecraft missions, including MESSENGER, Hayabusa2, OSIRIS-REx, GRAIL, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rovers, Mars Odyssey, Dawn, and more.  We are also active in planning the next generation of robotic spacecraft missions, human exploration, and astronomical observatories.  Faculty: All

Planetary Science News

Mystery Hole Found on Mars Could Be Future Astronaut Home
NEWSWEEK — A mysterious pit on Mars, captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), has reignited interest in the potential of these features to support future human missions to the Red Planet. Prof. Brandon Johnson, of Purdue EAPS, discusses this mysterious Martian hole.

What lies beneath: Mars’ subsurface ice could be a key to sustaining future habitats on other planets
PURDUE NEWS — To survive on other planets, water is, of course, critical. We need it to drink, sustain crops and even create rocket fuel. But on spaceflights, checked luggage is exorbitantly expensive. Anything heavy, especially liquids like water, is bulky and costly to haul by rocket, even to our closest interplanetary neighbors. The best plan, then, is to find water at the spacecraft’s destination. Purdue University planetary scientist Ali Bramson’s research is laying the foundation for future extraterrestrial exploration. She is focused on finding ice deposits beneath the barren surfaces of the moon and Mars, providing a buried resource important for future human habitats and even space travel itself. Subsurface ice also is a compelling target for astrobiology, climatology and geology research.

Are volcanic depressions on the Moon a fountain of youth?
Some volcanic areas on the Moon have a youthful appearance. These areas are known as Irregular Mare Patches, (pronounced MAHR-ay), or IMPs, and are considered youthful-looking in that, by appearance alone, look as though they were formed over a billion years after the Moon is thought to have stopped having volcanic eruptions. It’s a puzzle that lunar scientists have tried to resolve since their discovery and has major implications for the Moon’s evolution. Researchers at Purdue University recently published their findings on the composition of these IMPs and how they have managed to hide the proverbial fine lines and wrinkles. Hunter Vannier, PhD Candidate at Purdue University, is the lead author of the study published in AGU’s JGR Planets.

Discover Purdue’s latest and greatest in space sciences
PURDUE NEWS — Space scientists are the boots on the ground of space exploration, and Purdue’s researchers are among the most elite. Celebrate the wonder of space with this collection of the most recent and impactful news from Purdue University’s space research labs. Prof. Brandon Johnson, Prof. Briony Horgan, Prof. Alexandria Johnson, alumna Adriana Brown, and students Hunter Vannier and Riley McGlasson have all recently had giant leaps in space research.

2024 EAPS Awards announced
On Thursday, April 11, 2024, Purdue EAPS announced this year's awards for students, faculty, and staff at the Dauch Alumni Center of Purdue University. Thank you to donors who have made these awards possible!

NASA: 'New plan needed to return rocks from Mars'
BBC — The US space agency says the current mission design can't return the samples before 2040 on the existing funds and the more realistic $11B needed to make it happen is not sustainable. NASA is going to canvas for cheaper, faster "out of the box" ideas. Perseverance has been drilling and caching rocks that appear to have been laid down at the margin of the lake. One of the rover's senior scientists, Prof. Briony Horgan, of Purdue EAPS, said these samples were particularly exciting.

China to hear pitches from NASA scientist, other researchers, to study Chang’e 5 lunar samples
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST — China’s space agency has invited 10 scientists from the US, Europe and Asia to pitch their plans in person to study lunar samples brought back to Earth by China’s Chang’e 5 moon mission. US applicants appearing at the review will include planetary scientist Michelle Thompson from Purdue University.

Rock Sampled by NASA's Perseverance Embodies Why Rover Came to Mars
NASA — Analysis by instruments aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover indicate that the latest rock core taken by the rover was awash in water for an extended period of time in the distant past, perhaps as part of an ancient Martian beach. Collected on March 11, the sample is the rover’s 24th – a tally that includes 21 sample tubes filled with rock cores, two filled with regolith (broken rock and dust), and one with Martian atmosphere. Briony Horgan, of Purdue EAPS, says, "we’re still exploring the margin and gathering data, but results so far may support our hypothesis that the rocks here formed along the shores of an ancient lake."

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