Jennifer Heldmann, Ph.D.
(Planetary Scientist, NASA Ames Research Ctr)
1.3 – The Visitors (4.27.10)
1.6 – The Return (5.25.10)
Heldmann’s scientific research interests focus on studies of the Moon and Mars. Her Mars research focuses on studies of recent water on the Red Planet through spacecraft data analysis, numerical modeling, and fieldwork in Mars-analog environments such as the Outback of Australia, the Canadian High Arctic, the Atacama Desert, Spitsbergen, the Mojave Desert, and Antarctica, among other locales. Her work focuses on martian and terrestrial gully features which can be indicative of geologically recent liquid water activity. Liquid water is especially important to understand climate, geology, and the potential for past and/or present life on Mars. She also studies surface and subsurface ice deposits on both Earth and Mars to further understand the physics, geomorphology, and potential habitability of such cold icy locales in the Solar System.
She is also involved in planning for the future human exploration of Mars and has served on several MEPAG (Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group) special action teams for defining precursor activities needed to enable future human exploration of Mars. (e.g. Mars Precursor Science Analysis Group, Human Exploration of Mars Science Analysis Group, Mars-Forward Lunar Objectives Special Action Team, Analysis of the Precursor Measurements of Mars Needed to Reduce the Risk of the First Human Missions to Mars). She has also served as the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Lead for OSEWG (Optimizing Science and Exploration Working Group) at NASA Headquarters to connect SMD science objectives with NASA’s human exploration plans for the inner Solar System. In addition to these planning activities, Heldmann actively participates in research and field campaigns to enable human and robotic exploration of the Solar System with tasks such as working in Science Operations Backrooms, serving as Science Lead for tactical and strategic science planning for human and robotic missions, and assisting in the development of mission concepts and conops for multiple analog field campaigns. She is the Principal Investigator (PI) for NASA’s FINESSE (Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science & Exploration) project through the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, as well as PI and Co-I on numerous other NASA projects and grants.
Heldmann also studies the Moon with a focus on improving our understanding of lunar volatile deposits. Such studies are important scientifically in terms of Solar System evolution and also are relevant for planning future human exploration of the Moon through the identification of materials that can be used for in situ resource utilization (ISRU). She recently served on the Science Team, Payload Team, and as the Observation Campaign Coordinator for NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission to study the permanently shadowed regions of the lunar poles. LCROSS successfully impacted the Cabeus crater at the lunar south pole and confirmed the presence of water ice as well as numerous other volatile species on our Moon. She is currently a member of the Resource Prospector (RP) science team and helping to develop real-time science operations protocols and traverse plans for a lunar polar rover mission concept to explore lunar polar volatiles.