Graduate Seminars

The CLASS/SSERVI Capstone Graduate Seminar Series is aimed at providing the very best cutting-edge science focused on an in-depth examination of critical exploration topics. The speakers are recognized international experts in their fields. The seminar series is open to all scientists and engineers. Seminar talks last roughly 50 minutes with 30 minutes for discussion. The links in the seminar pages include the recorded talks, suggested readings, and biographies of the speakers. Each seminar is designed to be a foundation for graduate-level courses in planetary science.  Any questions can be addressed to CLASS at

The Science and Technology of Near-Earth Asteroid Sample Return

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Asteroid sample return is both cutting-edge science, critical for the development of space resources, and challenging technology.  The theme of this capstone graduate seminar is the interplay of science and technology in producing a successful sample return. The speakers will be recognized international experts in asteroid science and technology, addressing critical aspects of a sample return mission from the scientific justification to the recovery and curation of the returned samples.

In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)

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In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is a suite of concepts and technologies that can enable safer and more cost-effective use of space by exploiting local resources rather than bringing everything from Earth. ISRU includes commercial applications, robotic planetary exploration, human exploration, and the establishment of outposts. This capstone graduate seminar explores the context of ISRU, its economics, the state of the art in ISRU technology, and a range of ISRU applications including fuel generation, lunar and asteroid mining, in-space manufacturing, habitat construction, infrastructure construction, farming, and recycling. Our goal is to capture where the technology is today and where it can go in the next 20 years to support an expanding and vigorous space economy. The core content are a series of topic-focused lectures given by leaders in the field.

The Science and Exploration of Phobos and Deimos

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Phobos and Deimos are of particular interest as waystations or potential resources on the road to human exploration of Mars.  The course will address the current science and identify significant outstanding questions and exploration goals for robotic and human exploration of Phobos and Deimos. Where there are controversies we will examine in depth the major issues and present as much information as possible so that the audience can make informed choices between alternatives.

New Horizons Approaches Pluto

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This course, along with AST 6938, covers a gap in the planetary science offerings by addressing cutting-edge, topical results from missions and projects that are currently underway. The science discussed in this course may be several years away from being incorporated into textbooks, but can be fundamental to understanding the evolving research directions in planetary science. Also included in this course are planetary science topics and skills that do not fit easily into other courses, e.g.: how experimental constraints can skew science results, how synergistic measurements and instrumentation can advance science return, and how one develops an attitude for critical analysis of results. Note that the topic in AST 6156 and AST 6938 will be different each time either is offered, and the courses can be repeated for credit.