By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology
Bradley Jolliff, PhD, has been waiting decades for NASA to put astronauts on the moon again. Jolliff is the director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
“We learned so much from the Apollo missions and now Artemis, with astronauts going back to the moon, can do the same kinds of things,” said Jolliff. “And we’re looking at a location near the south pole so we can get at some of these ices and find out for sure if this something we can use in the future for sustainability on the moon for a supply of water, a supply of oxygen and hydrogen that can be used for fuel, as well as life support.”
Jolliff has been a research scientist and Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University for many years. He’s focused on the study of minerals and rocks of the Earth, the moon, Mars and meteorites, and what they reveal about conditions of formation and planetary processes over the past 4.5 billion years. His research includes sample analysis, surface science and remote sensing, as well as laboratory studies.
Jolliff has spent 30 years of his career studying the moon. He’s part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera science team. He investigates the surface of the moon, relating what can be seen from orbit to what is known about the moon through the study of lunar meteorites and Apollo samples.
“Artemis is the next big project for NASA relating to the moon and astronauts in space,” he explained. “It’s to do exploration, but it’s also to show how to live and work in space, have a sustained presence in deep space – in this case on the surface of the moon – and be able to sustain that presence. Artemis will put astronauts on the moon in the next few years and there’s yet another aspect that’s coming, and that’s commercialization of space. It’s going to be tens of billions of dollars put in, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, put into these kinds of activities.”
Jolliff leads the Washington University team that is part of NASA’s Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis program. He has authored dozens of technical articles about the moon. He served as general chair for the NASA Advisory Council’s 2007 Workshop on Science Associated with Lunar Exploration Architecture. In 2021, he wrote the overview for “Science and Exploration of the Moon,” in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Planetary Science (Oxford University Press).
“It (the moon) can be used as a stepping stone, if you will, to exploration elsewhere. For instance, it’s very expensive to get all of the fuel you need into space to a mission with astronauts to go to Mars. But if we could get the fuel from the moon, it’s much less expensive because the moon has much less gravity. So we could go to the moon, launch from there with oxygen and hydrogen derived from the moon. We need to prove that to make it happen.”
Jolliff is planning to do his part, with hopes of studying lunar samples from future Artemis missions.
“I would be very interested in the next set of lunar samples. I’ve been involved for many years in NASA’s committee that works on understanding and developing plans for the analysis and distribution of lunar samples,” said Jolliff. “And certainly at Washington University we have the laboratories and the people to make a very compelling case to get samples back in our laboratories and study them as we have been since the Apollo days. We have samples from Apollo, we have samples of lunar meteorites and in fact, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 30 plus years. So it’s very much in our interest at Washington University to be playing a role in the return of samples. “