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Mount Holyoke Helping with NASA Research


SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (WGGB) — Shooting for the stars. One western Massachusetts professor is gaining attention for her work with NASA.

That work includes the possibility of colonizing Mars and the moon.

Kylie Hanify is about to fire a weapons-grade laser at rock samples to find an extra-terrestrial connection

“I work with a category four laser here in a lab at Mount Holyoke College and I’m basically running carousel of rock samples, which is what the Curiosity rover is doing on Mars,” Hanify explains.

Hanify is working under the guidance of Professor M. Darby Dyar, who was chosen by NASA to field a team exploring the possibility on colonizing Mars or the moon.

Dyar adds, “We are actually interested in two things: human habitability on the moon and what kind of resources are going to be available to sustain humans, if they should go to the moon, either temporarily or long term.”

Dyar was part of the group that made the discovery of water in the lunar soil. “On the moon, our biggest interest in water because we need water for humans to live in a sustainable way there,” she says.

The Mount Holyoke College professor meticulously tests and compares samples from Earth to those found on the moon, looking to spot any challenges to men or women who might live on the moon.

“When you can walk around, you kick up a lot of dust and it could short out your spacesuit or possible clog up some of the equipment they use to breathe.”

To do those tests, NASA has entrusted her with moon rocks gathered by the Apollo missions and there are very few of those in existence

“When we go to other bodies in the solar system, we don’t bring back truckloads of samples. We bring back tiny samples and so, for 20 years, I’ve been working on special technology that helps us analyze teeny tiny samples,” Dyar says, adding “After filling out and ten page application and promising your first born child, if you’re a good enough scientist, they will loan lunar sample for scientific research.

More than good enough. This western Mass. connection to the cosmos has become of one of NASA’s most valuable resources.

Although Dyar firmly believes that we will one day colonize the moon, there is celestial body we won’t conquer.

“[Would we ever land a human being on the sun?] Not the sun. [What if we go at night?] No, we will never land a human being on the sun.”

But shooting for the moon and beyond isn’t bad.

Dyar work with NASA has led to a $1 million grant to Mount Holyoke College.

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