Space Sustainability Research Grand Challenge (SSRGC)

Space exploration has entered a renaissance with humans reaching out to the edge of our Solar System and beyond and seeking to explore and develop the Earth-Moon system. The United States, through NASA and the Department of the Air Force, will continue to invest significantly in the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. NASA's human plans under the Artemis Program call for establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon by the end of the decade. With U.S. companies and international partners, NASA will uncover new scientific discoveries and lay the foundation for private companies to build an Earth-Moon space economy.

Our mission is to expand New Mexico's scientific, creative, and economic horizons beyond Earth through university, commercial, and national lab collaboration.

Orion spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA
Orion spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA


Goals of the Sustainable Space Research Grand Challenge

  1. Develop a center of space science-exploration excellence on the UNM campuses by identifying and uniting relevant and diverse space expertise and maturing an appropriate research-technology infrastructure.
  2. Use this multidisciplinary team to competitively seek space research and exploration funding.
  3. Partner with the national laboratories and private companies to build a New Mexico Space Economy.
  4. Engage students from a variety of disciplines to develop a future work force and an entrepreneurial foundation for growing a Space Economy.
  5. Engage the citizens of New Mexico in educational outreach;  communicate and coordinate space related activities with the State legislature and governor’s office.
  6. By fulfilling goals 1-5, develop a New Mexico space economy that will benefit the citizens of New Mexico. 

Three areas of SSRGC focus


  • R1: Technologies for space travel
  • R2: Materials for space travel
  • R3: Indigenous space materials extraction research
  • R4: Space cybersecurity research
  • R5: Space biology research
  • R6: Terraforming space environments
  • R7: Human life support and health for space travel
  • R8: Space situational awareness
  • R9: Planetary Science 


  • E1: Curriculum development (collaborating in teaching a multidisciplinary course on campus)
  • E2: Student engagement in the space-related project on campus
  • E3: Outreach activities in the field of space education


  • C1: Visual Storytelling - Creating visually appealing content through art, photography, and videography to convey the wonders of space exploration in R and E teams
  • C2: Science Communication - Writing articles and reports to translate complex space-related research into accessible and engaging content for the public
  • C3: Interactive Media - Developing interactive web applications, virtual reality experiences, or interactive exhibits that engage audiences in space-themed experiences
Chip Shearer, Maryam Hojati, and David Hanson at UNM Grand Challenges Event. Photo courtesy of Sustainable Space team.
Chip Shearer, Maryam Hojati, and David Hanson at UNM Grand Challenges Event. Photo courtesy of Sustainable Space team.

News and Events

UNM researchers send tomatoes to space - Daily Lobo, 2/5/24

UNM researchers team up with University of Wisconsin–Madison to send tomatoes into space - UNM News, 1/26/24

Shearer to appear on Children's Hour radio program

In early March, Dr. Charles "Chip" Shearer will be a guest on the Children’s Hour radio program answering questions about the exploration of the Moon and beyond with New Mexico students.  The Children’s Hour can be heard on KUNM locally, as well as on more than 150 stations in 6 countries and on demand as a weekly podcast.


Planetary Sample Science Seminar Series (Spring 2024)

This seminar series on the study of materials from the Moon and other planetary bodies is organized by the CASA Moon node of SSERVI and is sponsored by SSERVI, the Institute of Meteoritics of the University of New Mexico (UNM), and the Sustainable Space Research Grand Challenge team of UNM.

Wednesdays at 11AM Mountain Time (10AM Pacific, 12PM Central, and 1PM Eastern)

Attend live at UNM Northrop 340 or via the virtual meeting

Meeting password: UbgFMRB?483 (82436720 from phones and video systems)

Spring Schedule (Tentative Titles)

January 31, 2024 Chip Shearer (University of New Mexico) ANGSA initiative. The first steps toward Artemis Sample Return.

February 7, 2024 Lars Borg (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) Chronology of the Moon.

February 14, 2024 Yang Liu (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) Discovery of lunar halite nanocrystals on the Surface of volcanic beads from Apollo 17.

February 21, 2024  Justin Simon (Johnson Space Center) Generation of felsic rocks on the Moon and their role for lunar volatiles.

February 28, 2024 Anthony Gargano (Lunar and Planetary Institute)

March 6, 2024  Maryam Hojati (University of New Mexico) Building Beyond Earth: Pioneering the Future with Additive Manufacturing in Space Habitats.

March 20, 2024 Marina Martinez (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona) Unraveling the micro-structure in apatite.

March 27, 2024 Noah Petro (Goddard Space Flight Center) Artemis III Science and Exploration of the Moon

April 3, 2024 Alexander Nemchin (Curtin University) U-Pb systematics of lunar samples.

April 10, 2024 James Dottin (Brown University) Sulfur isotopes in lunar samples.

April 17, 2024 Carl Agee  (University of New Mexico) Research treasures in the UNM meteorite museum.

April 24, 2024 Katarina Miljkovic (Curtin University) Connecting samples with source craters via impact modelling.


Book cover, New Views of the Moon 2New Views of the Moon 2 is now available online

Dr. Charles K. Shearer, one of the leads for SSRGC, played an important role in developing this book, serving as a member of the Science Organizing Committee. Shearer contributed his expertise as one of the book editors and lead author on one of the 19 chapters.


Past events

Lobo Living Room: Moon Exploration & Developing A Space Economy

Date: 1/24/2024
Time: 5:15 PM to 8:00 PM

Location: PAÍS Building, Room 1100

210 Yale Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

Join Dr. Charles “Chip” Shearer as he presents about how space exploration has entered a renaissance with humans reaching out beyond the edge of our Solar System and seeking to explore the Moon and build an Earth-Moon space economy. 

Opportunities for you in the Sustainable Space Research Grand Challenge

  1. Undergraduate support for group space related projects (Spring 2024) - Science, Engineering, Journalism, Education, Inspirational
  2. Multidisciplinary Space Exploration Class (Fall 2024)
  3. Sample Science Seminar Series (Spring 2024)
  4. Participation in outreach to National Labs and Commercial Space
  5. Coordination of multidisciplinary proposals to NASA


Charles Shearer, Senior Research Scientist III, Inst. Meteoritics, and Research Professor, Dept. Earth and Planetary Scienceschip-shearer
Maryam Hojati, Assistant Professor, Dept. Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineeringmaryam-hojati
Kristina Yu, Professor, School of Architecture + Planningkristina-yu
Project Coordinator
Laura Green, Research Scientist II, Biologylaura-green