UND Space Studies hosts alum and NASA life scientist Jon Rask, Monday, April 15

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences


Rask is well-known expert in human health risks in space exploration

The Spring 2013 Space Studies Colloquium Series focus on the general theme "Near-Earth Asteroid Mining" and has featured several leading experts in the field.

The fifth and final presentation in this series features Jon Rask, senior scientist/space biologist, Space Biosciences Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Ames Research Center.

Topic: "Lunar Dust: Problems and Potential For Future Explorers"

Time/Date: 4 p.m., Monday, April 15

Location: Ryan Hall, Room 111

About the Topic:

The fine-grained nature of the lunar surface is both a concern and an opportunity for future lunar surface operations. NASA research on lunar dust has focused on the biological concerns that relate to astronaut exposure to it and other research related to lunar dust. Rask will highlight results from recent research that has characterized lunar dust skin abrasivity, chemical reactivity, and pulmonary toxicity. His presentation will feature examples of concrete-like materials made of lunar dust simulants.

About the Speaker:

Jon Rask is a life scientist with the Space Biosciences Division of NASA Ames. His research focuses on human health risks associated with space exploration and the search for life on Mars. Rask has investigated the toxicity of lunar dust, and he has developed and tested life science hardware and experiments for Space Shuttle missions and the International Space Station. He has performed experiment operations aboard the NASA C9B parabolic aircraft and been a test subject in hypergravity experiments aboard the centrifuge facilities at NASA Ames.

On his NASA Quest bio page, Rask says "I am a space biologist. I am curious about what happens to life many generations after it leaves planet Earth.

"My job requires me to be involved in several different aspects of research. First, I help complete ground studies here on Earth. In this role, I help to manage the labs used to study specimens in both 1g (normal Earth gravity) and in the Ames centrifuge facilities (to simulate hypergravity). These studies help to generate a spectrum of knowledge that can be compared with the results from past or future spaceflight experiments. Second, I helped develop the actual spaceflight experiments themselves. In this example, we send model organisms into space, allow them to grow and develop, and then bring them back for study. We also repeat the same experiment here on the Earth. Careful analysis of both the flight experiment and ground controls are critical to understanding the biological changes that result from spaceflight."

Rask has also been involved in Mars analog research at the Mars Desert Research Station in the Mojave and Empty Quarter Deserts; in the relic glacial terrains and Badlands of North Dakota; in the Arctic on Svalbard archipelago; and in Antarctica. Prior to his work at NASA Ames, Rask was a farmer, rancher, and high school science teacher in North Dakota.

Rask is a 2001 alum of the UND Space Studies M.S. program. Space Studies is part of the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.