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Universities Space Research Association Appoints New Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute


WASHINGTONJune 28, 2024 /7Newswire — Universities Space Research Association (USRA) today named Dr. Walter S. Kiefer, Director, Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), effective June 24, 2024, following a national search. He has served as LPI’s Associate Director, and most recently, as Interim Director of LPI since February 1, 2024.

Dr. Kiefer is a distinguished planetary geologist whose research focuses on the internal structure and evolution of terrestrial planets and large icy satellites, including Venus, Mars, the Moon, and Io. Since joining the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) in 1993, he has made significant contributions to planetary geophysics. His work includes computer simulations of mantle convection and heat transport, measurements of planetary gravity and topography, and laboratory studies of the physical properties of rocks.

Dr. Kiefer’s research has advanced understanding of the current-day internal structure of Venus, Mars, the Moon, Io, and differentiated meteorite parent bodies. His studies have also shed light on volcanic structures on the Moon and Mars and the processes that led to the divergent evolution of Venus and Earth.

He served as an Apollo Lunar Sample Principal Investigator for five years, analyzing the density and porosity of 46 Apollo rock samples at the Johnson Space Center. This work contributed to the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission and involved using gravity observations to study the subsurface magmatic plumbing of volcanic structures on the Moon and Mars.

Dr. Keifer also serves as Co-Investigator on three upcoming planetary science missions: DAVINCI, Europa Clipper, and EnVision— a joint mission by the European Space Agency and NASA to Venus. Additionally, he is a member of NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee, providing strategic guidance to NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

He has authored 380 publications and has 5,000 citations. Dr. Kiefer chairs the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference—the premier planetary conference in the world–and has served as a guest associate editor for Meteorites and Planetary Science. He holds a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy, summa cum laude, from Texas Christian University and a Ph.D. in Planetary Science and Geophysics from the California Institute of Technology.

“We are delighted to have Walter lead LPI,” said Bernie Seery, Vice President of Science and Technology at USRA. “His experience and expertise are highly valued by USRA and I am confident that LPI will achieve much success under his stewardship.”

About USRA

Founded in 1969, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of the U.S. Government, the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) is a nonprofit corporation chartered to advance space-related science, technology, and engineering. USRA operates scientific institutes and facilities and conducts other major research and educational programs. It is an association with 121 university members. It engages the broader university community, employs in-house scientific talent, and offers innovative research, development, and project management expertise. More information about USRA is available at www.usra.edu.

About LPI

The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), operated by Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo program in 1968 to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program. Today, the LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary science. The Institute serves as a scientific forum attracting world-class visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows, students, and resident experts; supports and serves the research community through newsletters, meetings, and other activities; collects and disseminates planetary data while facilitating the community’s access to NASA astromaterials samples and facilities; engages and excites the public about space science; and invests in the development of future generations of scientists. The research carried out at the LPI supports NASA’s efforts to explore the solar system. More information about LPI is available at www.lpi.usra.edu.

Media Contact:
Suraiya Farukhi

SOURCE Universities Space Research Association