LPSA Info:

The Lunar and Planetary Science Academy (LPSA) is a highly selective, intensive ten-week summer internship program that focuses on individual research in the field of Planetary Science, leadership and networking. NASA LPSA was founded in 2009 by Dr. Cynthia Cheung and Mr. David Rossage.

Approximately twenty interns from all over the United States gather in Maryland to conduct independent research supervised by a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientist. They range from recent graduates of high school to first and second year graduate students. While doing their own research the interns attend talks with leading scientists in the relevant fields both at NASA Goddard and in the sorority houses in which they resided.

During the summer experience, the interns take a trip to an area of geologic interest to conduct in situ research supervised by several NASA scientists. This is seen as a chance for the interns to gain real world experience as a field geologist and also to understand the importance Earth Analogues as they relate to Planetary Science.

During their time at NASA LPSA, the interns are able to interface with internationally renowned scientists and they also improve their presentation skills through regular status reports, poster presentations and a final presentation.

Racetrack Playa

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

LPSA Field Trip Featured on NASA website

The Mysterious Roving Rocks of Racetrack Playa


  1. I believe the trails without rocks are trails not formed by ice chunks, but where rocks have been taken. I've been there twice and have photo records of rocks missing. I like the idea of ice collars.

  2. Consider the asymmetry of the ground surrounding the rock. In every direction, the ground is broken up into polygonal sections with spaces between for expansion and contraction due to heating/cooling (expansion joints created by dehydration) - EXCEPT along the path behind the rock, where the ground has been compressed by the rock - and MORE compressed by larger rocks.

    When heated, the soil along the path will expand more in the direction of movement than side to side. The surrounding soil will expand with circular symmetry into the cracks.

    The asymmetry of the expansion of the compressed and uncompressed soil will provide an asymmetrical force upon soil under the rock during the expansion phase in the direction of motion.

    Add to this the change caused by the rock upon the underlying soil when it moves - compressing it (changing it from the circularly symmetrical state with expansion joints to the "pavement" state with no expansion joints). This movement would also expose the freshly compressed area to sunlight - causing it to also expand asymmetrically. This could multiply the effect of the expansion of the path in the direction of movement - a multiplication effect only present during the heating/expansion phase.

    John Feagins - San Antonio TX