The Lunar Science Institute will connect research teams all over the country who are devoted to future studies of the moon.
“What it involves is selecting groups of scientists who are interested in the moon … making their expertise available in planning missions,” he said.
Scientists today still study the moon rock samples from Apollo, he said.
The future research administered by the institute will offer a broad range of opportunities for learning about the moon, including the lunar environment, the effect the moon has on humans, and perhaps one day conducting research from the moon itself. The moon could offer a glimpse of what the Earth was like early in its planetary history, he said.
“The moon is neat because it’s been sharing this environment with the Earth ... it’s a window into the past,” Morrison said.
The research will eventually lay the base for robotic and human travel to the moon.
“We have a commitment to go back to the moon with robotic and eventually human spacecraft. This is the science component to that,” he said of the institute.
The Bush administration committed to manned lunar missions before 2020. The Chinese have a similar goal, he added.
Although Morrison would rather see international cooperation for space travel, he doesn’t rule out the possibility of another space race.
After serving on the faculty of the University of Hawaii for 19 years as a professor of astronomy, Morrison joined NASA.
“NASA didn’t come into existence until I graduated from high school — so I’m older than NASA,” he said with a laugh.
He was a scientist on several planetary exploration missions, including the Mariner 10, which explored Venus and Mercury; the Voyager, CRAF, Galileo, which orbited Jupiter and Kepler. For those missions, he was responsible for analyzing photos the spacecraft took.