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Universities Space Research Association Wins Award from NASA to Advance Sample Science Research

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
September 26, 2023
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Universities Space Research Association Wins Award from NASA to Advance Sample Science Research

Universities Space Research Association (USRA), a nonprofit organization focused on space science and technology, is proud to announce that it has received an award valued at $13 million spanning a three-year period to support NASA’s Support for Planetary Sample Science program. The program’s goals will be to train scientists on handling extraterrestrial samples or astromaterials, and how to work with them in the laboratory, use specialized methods of analysis and interpret the results.

USRA’s Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) will be working closely with NASA’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at Johnson Space Center and several other NASA-funded laboratories at universities to host training events in their world-class laboratories and facilities.

USRA’s Dr. Lisa Gaddis, Director of the LPI, stated, “It is our very great pleasure to continue to support NASA’s Planetary Science Division through new collaborations at ARES and in the astromaterials community. This award takes us back to our roots in 1968 when the LPI was established to help NASA engage the academic community in efforts to work with samples from the Apollo missions. We are looking forward to focusing once again on astromaterials training and research.”

Dr. Jeffrey Isaacson, President and CEO of Universities Space Research Association, noted, “USRA is honored to continue supporting NASA’s Planetary Science Division and Johnson Space Center through this important cooperative agreement. I am proud of our team for the innovative approaches they proposed to help NASA achieve its goals in planetary sample science.”

As USRA/LPI embarks on this exciting journey with NASA, its commitment to innovation positions it to continue leading the way in sample science.

The LPI’s program will bring together leading scientists, laboratories, universities, and industries in support of NASA’s vital and growing sample science program. In partnership with ARES and many of the nation’s leading astromaterials experts at Arizona State University, Purdue University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Texas, LPI will deliver an unmatched program of curriculum development in astromaterials from small bodies, engaging workshops focused on the unique laboratory facilities and samples curated by ARES, and hands-on training events designed to broaden participation in NASA’s planetary science community. Working with Texas Southern University and the University of Houston at Clear Lake and other local partners, the LPI will expand opportunities for training students from historically marginalized communities as part of our intern programs.

Under the new award, LPI will also enable community-driven scientific research through its robust visiting scientist program that will support and mentor visitors and student interns as they conduct research in planetary and sample science at ARES and the LPI.

About USRA

Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology, and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities and conducts other major research and educational programs. It engages the university community and employs in-house scientific leadership, innovative research and development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at

The Lunar and Planetary Institute

The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), operated by Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo program in 1968 to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program. Today, the LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary science. The Institute serves as a scientific forum attracting world-class visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows, students, and resident experts; supports and serves the research community through newsletters, meetings, and other activities; collects and disseminates planetary data while facilitating the community’s access to NASA astromaterials samples and facilities; engages and excites the public about space science, and invests in the development of future generations of scientists. The research carried out at the LPI supports NASA’s efforts to explore the solar system. More information about LPI is available at

PR Contact:
Suraiya Farukhi
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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.