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Edinboro Geosciences Professor David Hurd invited to NASA launch event


Dr. David Hurd, professor of Geosciences and planetarium director at Edinboro University, has been invited by NASA to attend the launch of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) on Sept. 6 at Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va.


Hurd also will be on hand at the public events leading up to the launch to help enlighten the public on the mission as well as share copies of his tactile book, “Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters.” Written by Hurd with support from NASA’s Lunar Science Institute, “Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters” is a primer on lunar cratering designed for blind and visually impaired students.

“NASA takes their role of providing the wonders of science to all learners very seriously and has taken an active role in providing mission highlights to students with disabilities,” Hurd said.

Hurd has dedicated the last 15 years to producing and implementing tactile astronomy materials for the blind and has facilitated workshops on teaching astronomy to the visually impaired. He has produced products for NASA that have helped bridge the gap between the research community and special needs students. Hurd's work has provided opportunities for him to be involved in many NASA missions and launches, including shuttle launches and the Mars Curiosity Rover mission that landed just over a year ago and is currently exploring Mars. 

Using ultraviolet and visible light spectrometers, the LADEE satellite will orbit the moon to determine the composition of the lunar atmosphere.  A Neutral Mass Spectrometer will measure variations of lunar atmosphere over multiple lunar orbits, and the Lunar Dust Experiment will collect and analyze samples of lunar dust particles in the atmosphere to help determine if they are electrically charged by solar ultraviolet light.

“Does the moon have an atmosphere? Well, up until fairly recently, most scientists would have said no.  However, scientists now know that the moon does have a very sparse and thin atmosphere made up of dust and other molecules yet to be discovered by LADEE,” Hurd said. “In fact, the atmosphere of the moon is so thin that it is considered an exosphere, where particles that make it up rarely, if ever, collide.” 

Hurd was invited to take part in the launch-day events by the mission’s Education and Public Outreach (EPO) lead, Brian Day, who works for NASA's Lunar Science Institute at Ames Research Center. The LADEE will be launched at 11:27 p.m. – “a night launch that will be beautiful to behold,” Hurd said – on Friday, Sept. 6.