Seen & Heard, Laurence Ball

“What people really care about is their real wages, pensions and interest rates. Indexation is just kind of a no-brainer way to solve that problem, and that’s what they’ve done with Social Security.” 

Seen & Heard, Christy Thornton

Ultimately, more than four decades of the U.S.-led war on drugs abroad has not only failed to reduce the supply of illicit substances— it has actually made them more dangerous. A recent U.N. report found that global drug use is up 26 percent from a decade ago. Another survey by the Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed that despite decades of these source control measures, drug prices remain steady, purity and potency remain high, drugs remain widely available, and overdoses are skyrocketing.” 

Seen & Heard, Katie Hindmarch-Watson

“I think one of the most interesting legacies is that she carried the 20th century on her back with her. She was deployed in the Second World War. Her father and grandfather oversaw the first and second World Wars, and she brings that really powerful memory of the Second World War into the present. I think [Charles] has a tall order on his hands. His mother exemplified the values that so many British people like to see in themselves, and Charles has a huge burden to take up.” 

Books to Read in Fall 2022

Our faculty and staff talk about the books they’re enjoying this year.

Nine Years Under book cover

Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home

“I’ve just read Sheri Booker’s memoir, Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home, in conjunction with a class I co-teach with cemetery stewards about Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore. After a devastating death in the family, the teenage Ms. Booker goes to work in the office of the Wylie Funeral Home, near Harlem Square Park in West Baltimore. As she learns the ropes and gets to know her colleagues, we get an inside view of Black death-work. An urban funeral home, it turns out, is a complicated, arduous, and necessary business, a very busy business—and unexpectedly full of life.” 

Gabrielle Dean

Gabrielle Dean
William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Sheridan Libraries
Adjunct Professor, English

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie book cover

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

“I’m rereading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, the first in a series featuring an 11-year-old budding chemist/ murder mystery solver named Flavia de Luce. I love the delightful sidetracks into chemistry (gold chloride to make red stained glass, and I just finished the chapter where she successfully adds poison ivy extract to her sister’s lipstick); the clever details (the dead jacksnipe discovered with a postage stamp impaled on its beak!); and the protagonist’s curiosity and tenacity. I can’t put it down even though I already know how it ends; that’s the sign of a good book.” 

Alexandra Tan

Alexandra Tan
Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program

Loa a la Tierra book cover

Praise to the Earth: A Trip to the Garden

“I am reading Byung-Chul Han’s Praise to the Earth: A Trip to the Garden. Published in German in 2018, it just came out in Portuguese and Spanish translations. The German philosopher and cultural theorist born in South Korea is known for his critique of the ubiquity of technology in late capitalism, exploring its effects on mental health. In this book, Han turns to gardening as a way to cultivate the interest in and relationship with otherness; i.e., the non-self. In conversation with a long tradition of Western metaphysics and German poetry, Han meditates on botany and rituals, proposing a prophylactic sensorial experience of the garden against the digitalization of the world.” 

Marina Bedran

Marina Bedran
Assistant Professor in Portuguese
Modern Languages and Literatures

From the Krieger School Dean’s Desk

Dean Christopher S. Celenza

Watching or reading the news today can at times be a study in frustration. War. Climate disasters. Violence. Inflation. Extreme partisan politics. I often find myself walk­ing a fine line between staying in tune with the world around me and also remember­ing—in the interest of self-care—to take brief respites from the frantic news cycle.

It can seem overwhelming at times, but then I realize that many of our facul­ty at the Krieger School are on the front lines of researching and examining today’s troubling issues. It gives me great hope to know that not only are our scientists and scholars trying to make the world a better, more equitable, and more liva­ble place; they are also teaching our next generation of leaders how to take those ideals and methods to the next level.

Key Research

Take Professor Ben Zaitchik, for ex­ample, in our Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Ben and his team recently received a $25 million grant from the Department of Energy to improve climate modeling in Baltimore City. Their project examines the interlinked challeng­es of aging infrastructure, increased heat and flood risk, and inequitable burdens of air and water pollution common to many mid-sized industrial cities in the U.S.

The research of sociologist Meredith Greif is demonstrating how current inflation and increasing housing costs are exacerbat­ing homelessness. She recently wrote a book Collateral Damages, which studies how local laws affect private landlords and whether tenants are being adequately protected.

Martha S. Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor of History, has taken the lead on a university-wide project called Hard Histories, which examines the role rac­ism and discrimination have played at Johns Hopkins. Combining research, teaching, public engagement, and the creative arts, the Hopkins project, under Martha’s steady guidance, explores how racism has been per­mitted to persist as part of our structure.

Meanwhile, in the William H. Miller III Department of Physics and Astronomy, more than 10 principal investigators are leading research teams that work directly with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Last December, the JWST was launched on a jour­ney 1 million miles from Earth, and in July the first batch of never-before-seen images of the universe were released. Read more about this astounding feat on page 18.

Lilliana Mason, SNF Agora Institute Associate Professor and a member of our Department of Political Science, is examin­ing how American politics has become so divided and even violent, with an ultimate aim of confronting threats to democracy head-on, to create a more inclusive politics.

Fertile Ground

Those are just a few examples of what Krieger School faculty are exploring.

It is heartening to me—and I hope to you—to know that the Krieger School is such fertile ground for the innovative research that addresses humanity’s most pressing and challenging issues. The people doing this work and those who support it are part of a broad network within the Johns Hopkins community who wake up every morning and roll up their sleeves to embark on making the world better. I find that deeply inspiring, and I’m prouder than ever to be part of the Hopkins family.

Fall 2022 Faculty Awards

Tristan Cabello, Associate Program Director and Senior Lecturer, Advanced Academic Programs, was awarded the 2022 Annual Faculty Award by the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs.

Sara Castro-Klarén, Professor Emerita of Spanish, Modern Languages and Literatures, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin American Studies Association, Peru Section.

Debra Davenport, Lecturer, Advanced Academic Programs, is the 2022 recipient of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

Lael J. Ensor-Bennett, Curator, Visual Resources Collection, History of Art, received a Nancy DeLaurier Award from the Visual Resources Association.

Chaz Firestone, Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences, was awarded the Stanton Prize by the Society for Philosophy and Psychology.

Karen Fleming, Professor, Biophysics, will receive the Biophysical Society’s 2023 Avanti Award in Lipids.

Seeing Like a Child: Inheriting the Korean War, by Clara Han, Associate Professor, Anthropology, was awarded the Association for Feminist Anthropology’s Senior Book Prize 2022.

Hahrie Han, Director, SNF Agora Institute, and Professor, Department of Political Science, was selected to join the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Rubens in Repeat: The Logic of the Copy in Colonial Latin America, by Aaron Hyman, Assistant Professor, History of Art, was awarded Best Book in Colonial Latin American Studies published from 2019–22 by the Latin American Studies Association.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $2 million grant to the Diaspora Solidarities Lab co-led by Jessica Marie Johnson, Associate Professor, History. Additionally, Johnson’s book Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World won the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize for a first book that deals substantially with the history of women, gender, or sexuality.

Thomas Kempa, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, re-ceived the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Young Faculty Award.

Rebekka Klausen, Second Decade Society Associate Professor, Chemistry, was named a recipient of the 2022 American Chemical Society’s Macro Letters/Biomacromolecules/ Macromolecules Young Investigator Award.

Casey Lurtz, Assistant Professor, History, was awarded a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Robert A. Moffitt, Krieger- Eisenhower Professor of Economics, was selected to join the National Academy of Sciences.

Sarah Parkinson, Aronson Assistant Professor, Political Science and International Studies, received the Best Article Award from the Middle East and North Africa Politics Organized Section of the American Political Science Association.

Ottoman Baroque: The Architectural Refashioning of Eighteenth-Century Istanbul, by Ünver Rüstem, Second Decade Society Assistant Professor, History of Art, won the 2022 Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians.

Michael Schatz, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Biology, was named among the TIME 100 most influ­ential people of 2022 for his contributions to the first complete sequencing of the human genome.

When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History, by Daniel Schlozman, Joseph and Bertha Bernstein Associate Professor, Political Science, was named one of the Five Best Books on American Political Parties by The Wall Street Journal.

V. Sara Thoi, Assistant Professor, Chemistry, was selected as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar for 2022.

Revolution in Development: Mexico and the Governance of the Global Economy, by Christy Thornton, Assistant Professor, Sociology, received honorable mentions for the Barrington Moore Book Award, Comparative and Historical Section as well as the Immanuel Wallerstein Memorial Book Award at the 2022 American Sociological Association annual meeting.

Sarah Woodson, T.C. Jenkins Professor, Biophysics, will receive the Biophysical Society’s 2023 Ignacio Tinoco Award.

Ben Zaitchik, Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences, received a $25 million Department of Energy grant to create equitable climate solutions for people living in Baltimore City.

Faculty We Lost, Fall 2022

Joseph Cooper

Joseph Cooper

Following a 50-year career of lasting contri­butions as a scholar, university leader, and public servant, Joseph Cooper, professor emer­itus and Academy Professor, Department of Political Science, died August 20, 2022, in Westport, Connecticut. He was 88.

Cooper arrived at Johns Hopkins as provost and vice president of academic affairs in 1991, holding both positions until 1996. During his tenure, he established and led the Committee for the 21st Century, a university-wide effort to identify and address the greatest challenges facing Hopkins and other research univer­sities. He also led numerous dean searches for the university during those years.

Cooper also served as professor of politi­cal science from 1991 until 2012, when he was appointed professor emeritus and Academy Professor. He was a pioneer in the study of the development of Congress, using organization theory to show why congressional institutions behaved as they did. He authored, edited, or co-edited seven books and numerous articles and book chapters on a variety of topics related to the organization and development of Congress.

From 1976 to 1978, Cooper served as staff director of the Commission on Administrative Review (known as the Obey Commission), which was charged with revising ethics rules, floor scheduling, and administrative operations in the House of Representatives. He was also a member of the U.S. Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress; a board member of the Dirksen Congressional Center; and a member of the acad­emy advisory council for the Congress Center at Indiana University. He received research fel­lowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Brookings Institution.

Marc Lapadula

Marc Lapadula

Marc Lapadula, teacher and mentor, and critically acclaimed playwright, screen­writer, and film producer, died August 9, 2022, in Springfield, Missouri. He was 62.

A senior lecturer in The Writing Seminars from 1991 to 2013, Lapadula created and ran Johns Hopkins’ screenwriting program. His passionate and devoted teaching left an indel­ible impression on his students, hundreds of whom have gone on to successful careers in the film industry. Many also remained in touch with the person who opened their eyes to the intricacies of telling stories, creating characters, and devising plots, helping them believe their work had value to the world.

Lapadula’s own work includes several stage plays, screenplays, and film productions, includ­ing the award-winning Angel Passing. His former students wrote, directed, or produced dozens of critically acclaimed films including La La Land and (500) Days of Summer, and have scripted for television shows including Family Guy, Scrubs, Law and Order: SVU, and Queen Sugar.

After leaving the faculty of The Writing Seminars, Lapadula continued to teach courses in the department as well as in the Program in Film and Media Studies. He was also a reg­ular instructor in Hopkins’ Odyssey program. Outside of Hopkins, he taught screenwriting seminars in Yale University’s Film and Media Studies Program from 1992 until his death.

Steve Zelditch

Steve Zelditch

Steve Zelditch, a member of the Department of Mathematics from 1985 to 2010 and a leader in fields including global analysis, complex geometry, and mathematical phys­ics, died on September 11, 2022. He was 68.

Zelditch’s research interests included the spectral and scattering theory of the Laplace operator on Riemannian manifolds and espe­cially the asymptotic and distribution of its eigenfunctions; the inverse spectral problem; Bergman kernels; Kähler metrics; Gaussian random waves; and random metrics.

After serving as department chair from 1999 to 2002, Zelditch moved to Northwestern University in 2010, where he became the Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Mathematics. In 2013, he received the Stefan Bergman Prize for his seminal work on the Bergman kernel.

From the Office of Sarah Hörst

Sarah Hörst, an associate professor in the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, often builds LEGO sets when she can grab a spare moment. The result: an eye-catching office collection of space-themed builds, anchored by the Apollo Saturn V at far right. It’s not just LEGO, though; there are also some Matchbox items: “This is my space shuttle collection, so there are LEGO shuttles and Matchbox shuttles. There is some method to all of this madness,” Hörst jokes.

At home, Hörst is still working on the Apollo lander and space station sets. “I have to figure out where on earth am I going to put them,” she says.

Maybe the space scientist will have to look beyond Earth?

Hörst’s primary research interest is atmospheric chemistry, as she seeks to understand the formation and composition of planetary atmospheric hazes. She has a particular interest in the complex organic chemistry in the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and the only satellite in our solar system with a substantial atmosphere.

A view of multiple objects in the corner of professor Sarah Hörst office.
Will Kirk (Both)

Examining Housing Woes

Christine Jang-Trettien

The academic path that led Christine Jang-Trettien PhD ’20 to Baltimore to lead a study of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods was a long and winding one.

“My background is all over the place, a lot of moving around,” says the Indiana native, who grew up in a Baltimore suburb and a northern Indiana college town, sandwiched around a half-dozen years in her parents’ native South Korea.

After earning her undergradu­ate degree in art and art history at Indiana University, she moved to New York City for graduate school. While living first at Broadway and 116th Street, then Broadway and 123rd, and finally Broadway and 145th Street in Manhattan, she noticed the dramatic differences in neighborhoods along those 30 blocks. “Things change quite a bit, going from fairly wealthy and white around the Columbia University campus to a predominantly Dominican area,” she says.

A New Start

Her career path also changed after earning her master’s degree in international development from Columbia University. “After a while, global goals and global solutions became too abstract,” she says. Her focus shifted to American cities and spatial inequalities, and what seemed to prevent certain neighborhoods from changing and improving.

While at Columbia, she met Blake Trettien, a Hopkins graduate studying international development at New York University’s law school. “He put Hopkins on the radar for me,” she says.

The opportunity to work with Hopkins Department of Sociology professors Kathryn Edin and Stefanie DeLuca—then part of the Poverty and Inequality Research Lab—sealed the deal and decided her move to Baltimore.

“The most ideal graduate experience [includes] very supportive mentors, very supportive colleagues,” she says. “I was responsible for 50 graduate and undergraduate students who conducted 400 interviews, knocking on doors and talking to people in their homes. It was team-based, which is unusual for qualitative research. That allowed us to conduct better inter­views, because we were constantly providing feedback to one another. It was very much a collaborative effort. We still collaborate on papers.”

Researching Equity

Her study on neighborhoods at the Poverty Lab began in 2015 as an examination of the decisions made by landlords who operate in areas charac­terized by high rates of disinvestment. “Baltimore has a lot of vacant and aban­doned homes. We wanted to understand the tradeoffs landlords made and why some choose to maintain their proper­ties while others divest and abandon their properties,” she explains.

In 2016, the study expanded from just five neighborhoods in East Baltimore to include 10 additional neighborhoods in Central Baltimore.

Like their counterparts in Detroit, Flint, and other cities in the Rust Belt of America, those living in Baltimore’s neighborhoods face a number of issues that prevent them from owning their homes, Jang-Trettien points out.

“One question I grappled with was: What makes some neighborhoods so vulnerable to predation? Why are certain neighborhoods targeted by speculators?” she asks.

Effects of Redlining

“Redlining,” a policy that began in the 1930s that cut off investments from Black neighborhoods and effectively maintained segregated neighborhoods in the city, is a potent reason behind Baltimore’s spatial inequality, says Jang-Trettien. The process restricted residents of color to certain neighbor­hoods. That meant a large number of potential homeowners had only a small amount of housing available to them. Since Black homebuyers did not qualify for federally-insured bank mort­gages, they had to purchase through land installment contracts, which were informal agreements between buyers and sellers. The limited market kept purchase prices so high that after paying their loans, residents often lacked access to funds to make repairs to their homes, she says. Banned in 1968, redlining’s impact continues to be felt in Baltimore.

Redlining, to an extent, continues to this day. Banks and other large financial institutions see little bene­fit in providing a resident a $50,000 mortgage to buy a house in a poor neighborhood, for example, when lend­ers can make more money charging the same percentage for the same paperwork for a $200,000 mortgage in a more affluent area, she explains.

That forces residents to rely primar­ily on the rental market. “Landlords [in poor neighborhoods] see rental prop­erties as short-term investments,” Jang-Trettien says, an attitude that often leads to a lack of maintenance and regard for properties by the landlords.

Property owners are often investors who live out of state and buy properties sight unseen.

Jang-Trettien is now a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University’s Office of Population Research. She is also writing a book on housing in Baltimore.

Fall 2022 Alumni News

Alumni Kudos

Gina Apostol ’88 MA was awarded the Rome Prize in literature by the American Academy in Rome.

Daniel Dobrygowski ’02, head of governance and trust at the World Economic Forum, received the National Association of Cor– porate Directors’ Directorship 100: Governance Professionals and Institutions award for his work on the governance of technology.

Sabra L. Klein ’98 PhD, a professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2021 class of fellows for distinguished contributions to the field of sex differences in immune function, virology, and vaccine efficacy, and for her service to related professional societies.

Altoria Bell Ross ’97 received the National Association of Housing Cooperatives’ (NAHC) Author of the Year Award for her contribu­tions to NAHC publications through writing, reviewing, and editing. She is a technical writer for Sparksoft Corporation in Columbia, Maryland, and an adjunct professor of comm– unications at the University of Maryland Global Campus.

Alumni to Watch

Elizabeth Bernick ’21 PhD was named a 2022 American Council of Learned Societies Fellow.

Allison Caplan, Austen-Stokes Postdoctoral Fellow 2019–20, was named the 2022 American Council of Learned Societies H. and T. King Fellow in Ancient American Art and Culture.

Sumit Dahal ’20 PhD was selected by Forbes as a “30 Under 30” honoree for his work developing highly sensitive sensors for telescopes.

Jieun Park ’13 BA/MA won the Global Development Venture Award at the Korea International Cooperation Agency’s 2021 Social Venture Competition for her idea, OceanGo: an AI-driven, global ocean platform aimed at enabling developing countries vulnerable to impacts of climate change to better prepare and protect themselves.

Aleyna Rentz ’19 MFA won a Pushcart Prize for a story she worked on while at Johns Hopkins, “The Land of Uz,” which was published by The Cincinnati Review.

Emma Shannon ’20 was a recipient of the PEN/Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.

Karen Sun ’20 received the Anne Lindsey Otenasek Youth Service Award from Catholic Charities of Baltimore for her commitment to women and chil­dren experiencing homelessness and poverty in the city.

Magazine Brings Literary Style to Philosophical Writings

screen grab of Raven magazine web page

David Velleman started a magazine to put the heart back into philosophy.

Philosophical writing used to consist of wide-rang­ing, creative essays that were grounded in technique, but still accessible to a general au­dience, says Velleman, Miller Research Professor in the Wil­liam H. Miller III Department of Philosophy at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. They made readers think, and they helped some of them de­cide to become philosophers.

But most of the papers pub­lished today cover ever-narrow­ing topics in an increasingly for­mulaic style, Velleman says, or are papers about other papers. Which takes all the fun out of reading them.

“I had come to philosophy as a graduate student at a time when very distinguished philos­ophers were publishing articles on profound topics written in a way that could be read by any well-educated reader,” says the Johns Hopkins philosopher. “These became classic papers on profoundly humanistic topics. But in the last 10 to 15 years of my career, I found that the discipline was veering, as I saw it, off course. The literature was about the literature rather than about human life.”


So when a former colleague, who had left philosophy for journalism, suggested several years ago that the two of them start a magazine as a home for the kind of philosophical writings they both missed and wanted to read, Velleman— who was about to retire from New York University—thought it sounded like a good idea.

Renowned for his research and writings in moral psychol­ogy, free will, and ethics, among other topics, Velleman is also an experienced publisher. He briefly diverged from his doc­toral program in philosophy at Princeton to work in pub­lishing, and has spent his ca­reer committed to open-access publishing. Most of his work is available in open access form, and he co-founded the online journal Philosophers’ Imprint. His colleague-turned-co-edi­tor, David Johnson, serves as deputy editor of Stanford Social Innovation Review and formerly worked at Harper’s Magazine and Boston Review, among others. Between them, they have a hefty background in both philosophy and publishing.

In a nod to Velleman’s new home in Baltimore, they named the magazine The Raven. The first issue was posted online in December 2021, and a sec­ond issue appeared at the end of June. Topics range from the philosophy of time to ethics, the philosophy of mind to the nature of consciousness.

There is a trend that tries to bring philosophers into public debate through what is known as public philosophy, where phi­losophers are asked to provide philosophical angles on various issues of the day. The Raven is not that. Instead, Velleman and Johnson aim to reawaken the substance of old-school philos­ophy. They are simultaneously flinging its doors open to a wider audi­ence. Instead of inviting phi­losophers into the public fray, they are inviting the public to engage with the wilds of phi­losophy, but in ways that feel relevant, interesting, and most of all, human, Velleman says.

Prospecting for Water on the Moon

In the fall of 2023, a U.S. rover is slated to land at the south pole of the moon. Its mission: to explore the water ice that scien­tists know lurks within the lunar shadows, and which they believe could help sustain humans who may one day explore the moon or use it as a launching pad for more distant space exploration.

NASA recently selected Kevin Lewis, an associate pro­fessor in the Krieger School’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, as a co-in­vestigator of the mission. Using part of the rover’s navigational system, he plans to explore the moon’s subsurface geology from his office in Olin Hall.

“I have been on other rover missions, but on Mars, so I’m a little bit new to the moon,” Lewis says. “We’re going to see into shadows that have never seen the sun, let alone been seen by humans. So it could be a very different type of surface than we’ve seen in other photos of the surface of the moon.”

artist's rendering of VIPER
Nasa / Daniel Rutter

Above, an artist’s concept of the completed design of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER.

The Moon’s Environment

Most of the moon is com­pletely without water. That’s because of the way the satellite was formed, in a giant impact between the proto-Earth and a Mars-size object. Temperatures were high enough not only to melt rock, but to vaporize it, causing a cloud of rock vapor to orbit Earth. The vapor eventually coalesced to form the moon.

Those temperatures were also high enough to drive off any water, not even leaving appreciable traces trapped within rocks the way it is on Earth. But over time, meteors and comets containing water ice bombarded the moon, sending ice molecules hopping around the lunar surface.

The sun’s angle at the moon’s poles is steep, creat­ing long shadows. This means that some of the polar craters receive no sunlight at all. When the water molecules happen to hop into one of those unlit areas, whose temperatures are among the coldest in the solar system at just tens of degrees above absolute zero, it drains their thermal energy and they remain stuck to the surface.

“So, over time, you could build up ice deposits in these permanently shadowed regions, which might be basically the only source of water on the entire moon in useful quanti­ties,” Lewis says.

The Science of the Rover

The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a golf cart-sized robot designed for the extremes and unknowns of the moon’s south pole. The rover, which will travel several kilometers over several lunar days—or about 100 Earth days—will assess things like what form the water is in, how much of it is there, whether it’s more like frost on the surface or ice at depth, and whether there’s more of it in some areas than others.

Currently being assembled at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, VIPER has to be customized for the specific con­ditions it will encounter. There’s the cratered soil with various levels of compaction, requiring four independently controlled wheels that can handle slopes of 25 to 30 degrees. And there are the moon’s drastic temper­ature swings, ranging from 225 degrees Fahrenheit in the sun during the day to -400 degrees in those permanent shadows. VIPER’s boxy shape protects the instruments, and calibrations of the high-precision technol­ogy are currently underway to guard against those swings.

Then there’s the darkness itself, necessitating the first headlights ever used on a rover, to illuminate places on the moon that have never seen sunlight.

And there are the conflicting needs of science and logistics— the science calls for VIPER to spend its time in the shadows, but the rover will also need to periodically climb out of the cra­ters to recharge its batteries in the sunlight. Most rovers’ solar arrays are located on their roofs, but the angle of the polar sun­light requires VIPER’s arrays to be mounted on its sides instead.

The Artemis program

After a request for proposals, NASA added eight co-investiga­tors to its existing VIPER science team, in part to bring new ideas and expertise to the team. Lewis’ investigation effectively gives the rover a whole new science instru­ment for probing the moon.

VIPER is part of NASA’s Artemis program, a multiphase process to return humans to the moon. Artemis I will be the first test of the rocket that will eventually carry humans, and is scheduled for launch this year. Artemis II, scheduled for 2023, will orbit the moon with humans aboard. Artemis III is planned to land humans on the surface of the moon in 2024.

As a member of the science team, Lewis isn’t involved in constructing VIPER, and he won’t be directly handling any of the controls during the mission. But since joining the team, he’s been involved in simulated operations, where the team practices using the rover’s technology and making the kind of decisions that will need to be made on the spot.

“It’s really exciting to be prospecting for water that could potentially be used by human explorers someday,” Lewis says.

Planetary and lunar scien­tists Kathleen Mandt and Parvathy Prem from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory were also selected as VIPER team members.

Watch Now

VIPER’s survey in 2023 will help pave the way for a new era of human missions to the lunar surface.

Video: NASA AMES Research Center