UF professor to lead NASA-sponsored survey and choose priorities for space research

Distinguished University of Florida professor has been named co-chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Decadal 2023-32 Survey of Biological and Physical Sciences Research in Space, a guide sponsored by NASA for the next 10 years the priorities of the study.

Rob Ferl, professor of horticultural sciences at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and principal investigator at UF Space Plants Lab, will co-chair the committee responsible for creating the guide with Krystyn J. Van Vliet, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Together, he said, they will bring together around 50 scientists to examine as many research ideas as possible over the next year, focusing on topics such as life support systems for astronauts, technologies to bring people back to the Moon and their experiences there.

After a second year of expert commentary, lectures and guide preparation, a paper will be released to NASA, Congress and others, Ferl said.

“For me personally, this is a wonderful opportunity to provide and be part of the direction for the next decade. Being not only a part, but also a large part of this effort, is one of those rare opportunities to serve a field. scientist who is dear to my heart, ”he said.

“Being able to leave that as a legacy is really cool. It’s not a bad mark to leave on the world.”

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Ferl has been at UF since 1980, involved in NASA research for over 20 years, and has been involved in the 10-year investigation process since around 2009.

He led the mid-term review of the previous 2011 Decennial Survey of Biological and Physical Sciences in Space Research, helping to assess five years after the start of the 10-year period to what extent NASA has tracked guide.

And he said it was an honor to help make the next one now, not just to see him again.

“Can I absolutely sit down and think about what kind of experiences to have on the moon? Yes, and I can’t wait to have these conversations,” he said.

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Ferl will volunteer as a co-chair while staying in Gainesville and working at UF, although he has said he expects related trips over the next two years.

“It’s part of our mission as faculty members at the University of Florida,” he said. “We are here to advance the public good, and as I am a space geek, advancing public excitement for space exploration is a real privilege.


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Travis Durham

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