Economic Geology of Lunar and Asteroid Resources Seminar: Jan 20

← Return to main course page

Lecturer: Dr. David A. Kring
(USRA-LPI), Principal Investigator
The Center for Lunar Science and Exploration is led by Dr. David A. Kring. Kring received his Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences from Harvard University. He specializes in impact cratering processes produced when asteroids and comets collide with planetary surfaces. Kring is perhaps best known for his work with the discovery of the Chicxulub impact crater, which he linked to the K-T boundary mass extinction of dinosaurs and over half of the plants and animals that existed on Earth 65 million years ago. He has also studied the environmental effects of impact cratering and shown how impact processes can affect both the geological and biological evolution of a planet. This work includes studies of the dramatic environmental perturbations (e.g., prolonged darkness, acid rain, wildfires) expected after the Chicxulub impact event, plus studies of several smaller local, regional, and global effects produced by the thousands of impact events that affected Earth after life evolved.
Pushing back the cloak of time farther, he has explored how impact cratering may have affected the early evolution of the Earth-Moon system. In particular, he has led a decade-long campaign to test the lunar cataclysm hypothesis, which is one of the great intellectual legacies of the Apollo program. Indeed, the bombardment of the Earth-Moon system remains the highest science priority for our nation’s return to the Moon. Kring has suggested that an intense period of impact bombardment may have affected the origin and early evolution of life on Earth. In particular, he suggested that early impact bombardment created vast subsurface hydrothermal systems that were crucibles for pre-biotic chemistry and provided habitats for the early evolution of life. He calls this concept the impact-origin of life hypothesis.
Dr. Kring has also led a joint academic-industry-NASA design team for a robotic lunar lander and rover system that can be deployed anywhere on the lunar surface. His team generated three point-designs for missions to the floor of a shadowed lunar crater (Polar Express), the sunlit rim of Shackleton Crater (Heliopoint Lander), and an impacting probe (Polar Surface Probe). He is particularly interested in the interfaces between science, exploration, and operations, to ensure our nation’s return to the Moon maximizes productivity while enhancing safety and efficiencies during robotic and crew operations. In that context, he has trained astronauts how to work with planetary surfaces (e.g., the Moon, Mars, and asteroids) affected by impact cratering and volcanic processes. He has also developed mission concepts for human-assisted lunar sample return missions, human exploration of the lunar surface, and helped lead simulations of lunar and near-Earth asteroid missions in analogue terrains here on Earth.
Kring has been actively engaged in communicating scientific issues to the public through a variety of print, radio, and television forums, including popular science books, magazine articles, and science documentaries for the Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, History Channel, PBS, Channel 4 (U.K), and NHK (Japan).
For more information about Dr. Kring and a list of his past publications, please see

Topic: Lunar Geology

Recorded talk:

Download Slides

Recommended Readings:

For the purposes of the January 20 lecture “Lunar Geology,” I recommend – in this order – the following brief dips into the literature

Hiesinger and Head (2006), 82 pages long.
Chapter 2 (pp. 10-19) in the NRC (2007) report.
Pieters et al. (2018), which is only 8 pages long.

If time allows, students are encouraged to investigate other publications in the list below. It may be interesting to see how ideas evolved by comparing later works with earlier works.

There are three classic books about lunar geologic history:

S. R. Taylor (1982) Planetary Science: A Lunar Perspective. Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston TX. (The book is out of print, but is still available electronically at

D. E. Wilhelms (1987) The Geologic History of the Moon. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1348, Washington DC. (The book is out of print, but is still available electronically at

G. H. Heiken, D. Vaniman, B. M. French (1991) Lunar Sourcebook: A User’s Guide to the Moon. Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston TX. (The book is out of print, but still available electronically at

Ross Taylor augmented his book with several journal-length summaries, such as

S. R. Taylor (2008) The Origin and Evolution of the Moon in a Planetary Context. Golden Jubilee Memoir of The Geological Society of India, No. 66, pp. 13-50.

S. R. Taylor (2014) The Moon re-examined, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 141, 670-676.

Graham Ryder also provided a short supplement to Taylor’s (1982) book:

G. Ryder (1987) The Moon. Reviews of Geophysics 25(2), 277-284.

As part of a community-wide initiative, a review book was published:

B. J. Jolliff, M. A. Wieczorek, C. K. Shearer, and C. R. Neal, editors (2006) New Views of the Moon. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, volume 60. Mineralogical Society of America.

The first chapter of that volume is:

H. Hiesinger and J. W. Head III (2006) New views of lunar geoscience: An introduction and overview. In New Views of the Moon, B. J. Jolliff et al. (eds.), Reviews of Mineralogy and Geochemistry, vol. 60, pp. 1-81, Mineralogical Society of America.

Please note that a new book (New Views of the Moon II) is currently being prepared by the community.

Another important review of lunar geology, with an eye on future exploration, is

National Research Council (2007) The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon. National Academies Press, Washington DC.

That review was recently supplemented by a SSERVI-sponsored report produced at the request of the NASA Associate Administrator of Science:

C. M. Pieters et al. (2018) Transformative Lunar Science.