Published: Oct. 4, 2022

NASA LogoThree University of Colorado Boulder aerospace graduate students have been named 2022 Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST).

Julian Hammerl, Jackson Jandreau, and Erin McMurchie have each earned the grants, which provide up to $50,000 annually for three years to cover tuition, expenses, and student-designed research projects.

FINESST proposals must address goals relevant to NASA's science mission directorate divisions -- heliophysics, earth science, planetary science, or astrophysics. The agency received 927 applications from students across the country and is funding 140 of them.

Find out more about each of our awardees and their research below:

The 2022 Honorees

Julian Hammerl

3rd Year PhD Student

Advisor: Hanspeter Schaub
Lab: Autonomous Vehicle Systems Lab

I will explore spacecraft charging in lunar orbit and look into adapted guidance and control strategies that mitigate the effects of spacecraft charging on on-orbit servicing, assembly and manufacturing (OSAM) operations. Depending on space weather conditions, spacecraft can charge to high electric potentials in orbit. In addition to potentially hazardous electrostatic discharges, this results in electrostatic forces and torques that perturb the motion of the two spacecraft. When an uncooperative target satellite is approached by a servicing satellite, the target starts to tumble due to the electrostatic torques if its center of mass is not aligned with its center of charge. The servicer needs to match this rotation to maintain a constant relative orientation with the target during rendezvous and docking. This increases fuel consumption and complicates servicing operations. By taking into account the plasma wakes generated by the spacecraft and by using guidance strategies that consider the electrostatic forces and torques, the effects of such perturbations can be reduced. Considering the Lunar Gateway, upcoming Artemis missions, and other science and servicing missions around the Moon, this is a very relevant topic due to the increasing number of rendezvous and docking operations in lunar orbit that come with these missions.

Jackson Jandreau

4th Year PhD Student

Advisor: Xinzhao Chu
Lab: Chu Lidar Lab

My funded research involves both the collection and processing of data taken by our lab group's McMurdo Station, Antarctica lidar observatory. I am spending the 2022-2023 season "wintering-over" down here to collect the 11th year of data in the campaign, and my stay will total 14 months before I leave. This involves managing the lab over that period, training myself further on optics and lidar operation, and maintaining the lidar systems throughout the Antarctic winter. On the data side, I will primarily be processing data and analyzing our observations of atmospheric gravity waves, looking at vertical coupling of wave energy, long term trends in wave behavior, and teleconnection with other global atmospheric phenomena.

Erin McMurchie

3rd Year PhD Student

Advisor: Robert Marshall
Lab: Lightning, Atmosphere, Ionosphere, and Radiation Belt (LAIR) Research Group.

This project will utilize in-situ data from NASA's Juno mission to study loss mechanisms in Jupiter's radiation belt energetic particle populations. The moons embedded within Jupiter's magnetosphere drive local and far-field interactions, producing Alfvén wings, auroral moon footprints, and driving particle acceleration within the radiation belts. Energetic particle dynamics driven by these interactions will be investigated by quantifying energetic particle precipitation (EPP) into the Jovian atmosphere, and comparing the total precipitation flux to a similar estimate derived for Earth's atmosphere. This comparative magnetosphere investigation will advance our understanding of radiation belt dynamics throughout the heliosphere, impacting our exploration of the solar system and our understanding of dynamic events in the near-Earth and near-Jupiter space environments.