EPSCoR is the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, sponsored by various federal agencies.

NASA EPSCoR in Arkansas is now in its tenth year of research work and is administered by the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium. Please contact us if you would like further information.


NASA / EPSCoR Research Award 2007

Noninvasive Prospecting for Lunar Ores and Minerals

PI: Haydar Al-Shukri (UALR)
Co-PI: Hanan Mahdi and Alexandru Biris (UALR)
Robert Dunn (Hendrix):
Steve Trigwell and Ellen Arens (ASRC Aerospace/KSC)

NASA is committed to the journey of exploration of the solar system, with its first target, the Moon. For these long time missions to be economically and scientifically feasible, it is crucial for the resources needed for life support (oxygen, water, and energy), habitats and shielding, as well as propellants, be produced in-situ. In order to accomplish this, innovative, robust technology and procedures must be developed for resource prospecting, extraction and beneficiation that could be different from those used on Earth. Noninvasive methods, such as geophysics and remote sensing, became standard procedures for resources prospecting and evaluation on Earth. These technologies lie at the beginning of the value chain and appreciably decrease the cost both in time and capital investment for resource beneficiation on Earth. The same economics will hold true and be amplified in space operations, because of the high cost and logistical problems associated with space delivery of capital equipment. This work focuses on the utilization of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technologies to identify the presence of under the surface ilmenite (FeTiO3), which is considered one of the most promising minerals for the generation of oxygen and metals such as Fe and Ti. Scientists from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), Hendrix College, NASA Kennedy Space Center, and ASRC Aerospace will work collaboratively to develop a comprehensive method for fast and accurate detection of areas rich in ilmenite (and possibly extended to other minerals that are of interest to NASA) present at and beneath the surface of the Moon. Since the distribution of minerals beneath the Moon surface may not be uniform, the ability to quickly identify those areas with high concentration of the desired minerals is essential for the long-term success of any mission. These areas can be the sites for mineral exploration and extraction. This project is expected to generate a novel method for fast and accurate detection of various minerals, which can be used to support the life and the success of the long time manned NASA missions. The team will implement three independent schemes to study the electromagnetic signatures of a number of minerals that are of high value to NASA’s missions and goals. These schemes are: (1) synthetic modeling of GPR data for specific minerals with different concentration in the simulated lunar soils and rocks. Detection capability will be measured as a function of percentage of mineral concentration in host soil and rock; (2) laboratory measurement of GPR data for natural minerals and ores. The detection capability will be investigated for both percentage of mineral concentration and depth; (3) geophysical fieldwork to collect data for natural deposits of the Tokio formation in southwest Arkansas. Heavy minerals, such as ilmenite, were discovered there and mapped by the Arkansas Geological Commission (AGC) (Hanson, 1997). We will apply GPR surveys in the area to develop high-resolution images of the mineral deposits. Raman Spectroscopy and X-Ray Diffraction will be used to determine percentages of ilmenite and other minerals in Tokio sands and their corresponding mineralogy. The measurement of the dielectric constant and other electric properties will be performed by the NASA collaborators at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Measurement of electric properties and mineral concentration for lunar samples will be conducted at UALR and KSC. These measurements are crucial for synthetic measurements and laboratory extermination. Lunar samples of the Apollo’s missions are available to the research team. The results and analysis of the above three schemes will be integrated to develop ideal procedures for lunar prospecting and the ability to locate in a short time the areas rich in the minerals of interest.

NASA / EPSCoR Research Competition 2008

A Census of Supermassive Black Holes in the Universe

Principal Investigator: Dr. Daniel Kennefick, 226 Physics Bldg., Physics Department, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701
Co-PI: Dr. Julia Kennefick, 226 Physics Bldg., Physics Department, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701
Co-PI: Dr. Claud Lacy, 226 Physics Bldg., Physics Department, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701
Co-PI: Dr. Marc Seigar, 2801 S. University Avenue, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Univ. of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR 72204
The Space Studies Board of the National Academies, in its report NASA’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation (National Academies Press, 2007, p. 17; http://www.nap.edu/catalog/12006.html), has identified the need to “perform a census of black holes throughout the Universe” as a relevant science goal for this NASA program. Perhaps the single most interesting category of black holes in such a census will be supermassive black holes (SMBHs), which likely reside at the centers of most galaxies. Measuring supermassive black hole masses as a function of lookback time is of vital importance in telling us how these objects form and what role they play in the evolution and history of their host galaxies. We propose to study and exploit several methods for estimating SMBH masses in galactic cores, using existing NASA facilities and databases in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and across a range of cosmic epochs, building towards a census of the type discussed in the National Academies’ report, while investigating the SMBH mass evolution with lookback time.
We propose three related lines of research to estimate the mass of SMBHs in normal and active galactic nuclei. One project will seek to exploit a new relation, recently discovered by this collaboration, between the spiral arm pitch of spiral galaxies and the mass of their central black hole. We will employ this relation on existing high quality Hubble Space Telescope imaging to estimate the masses of a wide range of galaxies to larger lookback times than has been previously possible. A second project will look for evidence for binary supermassive black holes in starbursting galaxies. Such galaxies may be the result of galactic mergers, which theory suggests will likely result in close SMBH binary systems at the core of the merged system. The use of infrared imaging, from facilities such as NASA’s IRTF and the Spitzer Space Telescope, to look for SMBHs in this class of galaxies was given a high priority in Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium (National Academies Press, 2001, p. 85; http://www.nap.edu/catalog/9839.html), a decadal survey of the National Research Council. Discovery of binary SMBHs would be of particular relevance to the LISA mission, since gravitational waves between two such objects as they merge could be observed by LISA across the observable universe. Our third project will use proven spectroscopic techniques to estimate the mass of SMBHs in quasars, at distances of 10 to 12 billion light years, to investigate whether the strong evolution in quasar luminosity observed over this cosmic epoch is reflected in similarly significant changes in the SMBH mass function. Thus we plan to investigate SMBHs of a range of masses, in both quiescent and active galactic nuclei, both singly and in binary pairs, and to estimate the mass of such objects over recent and cosmological epochs.

NASA / EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Development (RID)

On-Line Structure Health Monitoring for Space Structure by Using MEM’s-Based Piezoelectric Sensors
PI – Guoliang Huang, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Co-PI – Shivan Haran, Arkansas State University

Photoconductive and Photovoltaic Arrays of Indium (III) Sulfide Nanostructures for NASA-Relevant Light Detection, Sensor, and Energy Conversion Applications
PI – Tansel Karababak, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Co-PI – Robert Engelkin, Arkansas State University
Co-PI – Hye-Won Seo, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Toward a Census of Supermassive Black Holes in the Universe
PI – Daniel Kennefick, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Co-PI – Julie Kennefick, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Co-PI – Claud Lacy, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Co-PI – Marc Seigar, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Spectroscopic and Mophometric Analysis of Bones Under Simulated Microgravity Using Hindlimb suspended Animal Model
PI – Rahul Mehta – University of Central Arkansas
Co-PI – Parimal Chowdhury – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Co-PI – Nawab Ali – University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Development of Algorithms to Mitigate the Effects of Lunar Dust on Robotic Exploration
PI – Cang Ye, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Co-PI – Gabreil Ferrer – Hendrix College