NASA and the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN)—Italy’s National Nuclear Physics Institute—signed a statement today, officially making INFN an Affiliate Member of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). As the first Italian partner of SSERVI, the INFN will participate in SSERVI programs on a no-exchange-of-funds basis.
“The INFN is devoted to fundamental research in nuclear and astroparticle physics, and related technological developments. SSERVI addresses basic and applied research on the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. We are eager to see the collaborative scientific discoveries that result from this partnership,” said Yvonne Pendleton, Director of SSERVI.
The statement was signed today by the president of INFN, Fernando Ferroni, and the SSERVI Deputy Director Gregory Schmidt, on behalf of Yvonne Pendleton. Among others, Doris Daou, Associate Director of SSERVI, and Fabio Bossi, Head of the Research Division of LNF—the Frascati National Labs of INFN near Rome— also took part in the event.
“This is a special moment for INFN,” said the President Fernando Ferroni. “To make our researchers available for a collaboration with NASA, the most prestigious space agency in the world, is a source of pride and great satisfaction for all of us. Furthermore, this demonstrates that technologies developed in “curiosity driven” research can be applied even in fields which are very different from the original ones,” concludes Ferroni.
The INFN proposal submitted by Principal Investigator Dr. Simone Dell’Agnello was selected for Affiliate Membership after it was determined that the INFN carries out complementary research activities that will help NASA achieve its goals for human exploration of the solar system. The new scientific collaboration between the two institutes will enable the future development of joint activities, the exchange of scientists involved in space exploration research, and shared use of respective research laboratories.
INFN is independently developing and characterizing retroreflectors to be deployed on the Moon and on satellites of the Galileo global navigation satellite system (ie., the European “GPS”), and calibrating particle and astro-particle detectors used at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) as well as others already deployed for space activities.
“About 10 years ago we focused on precise positioning in space with laser retroreflectors as an advanced tool for fundamental and applied physics in the whole Solar System. We built a new lab, and we proposed new ideas and experiments to support our research of the Moon, Mars and beyond,” said Dell’Agnello. “Leading INFN in a partnership with NASA-SSERVI of the US Silicon Valley feels like California dreaming.”
“Our Italian partners have put together a compelling proposal that outlines multiple topics for potential collaborative research. In particular, their strengths in areas such as laser retroreflectors offer both a strong science return and the potential for new mission capabilities. These results will be important to NASA and its international partners successfully conducting the ambitious activities of exploring the solar system with robots and humans, and we look forward to a long and close partnership between our respective countries,” said Greg Schmidt, Deputy Director of SSERVI, who also directs international partnerships for the Institute.
Based and managed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, SSERVI is a virtual institute that, together with international partnerships, brings researchers together in a collaborative virtual setting. The virtual institute model enables cross-team and interdisciplinary research that pushes forward the boundaries of science and exploration. SSERVI is funded by the Science Mission Directorate and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.