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Located in Orlando, Florida, Exolith Lab is an at-cost organization largely funded by CLASS, The Center for Lunar & Asteroid Surface Science at UCF. Exolith Lab develops and produces Lunar, Martian, and asteroid regolith (soil) simulants. Exolith Lab works with NASA while also performing it’s own ISRU research led by Dr. Dan Britt and Dr. Zoe Landsman.
Exolith Lab enables space exploration, science, and education by making high-fidelity regolith simulants available to researchers and students around the globe. The Planetary Simulant Database, the premier source for information regarding regolith simulants, is also maintained by Exolith Lab.
Prof. Dan Britt – Founder
Dr. Daniel Britt is a Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences at the Department of Physics, University of Central Florida. He was educated at the University of Washington and Brown University, receiving a Ph.D. from Brown in 1991. He has had a varied career including service in the US Air Force as an ICBM missile launch officer and an economist for Boeing before going into planetary sciences. He has served on the science teams of two NASA missions, Mars Pathfinder and Deep Space 1. He was the project manager for the camera on Mars Pathfinder and has built hardware for all the NASA Mars landers. He currently does research on the physical properties and mineralogy of asteroids, comets, the Moon, and Mars under several NASA grants and is the director of the Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS), a node of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). He has served as the Chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society and the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America. Honors include 6 NASA Achievement Awards, election as a Fellow of the Meteoritical Society, and an asteroid named after him; 4395 DanBritt.
Mike Conroy – Project Manager
Mike Conroy leads the Florida Space Institute (FSI) Student Design Projects, integrating mentors and scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with FSI’s Colleges and Universities. This includes collaboration to identify project needs, development of project content and execution of projects benefit the Students, Universities and NASA. Mike also serves as the Technical Chair of the international Simulation Exploration Experience (SEE), a STEM/STEAM initiative integrating students, industry, professional associations and faculty for an annual, cooperative, Space Exploration Modeling and Simulation Challenge with bases on both the Moon and Mars. Mike has over 35 years of Space System Design, Development, Maintenance and Operations experience with NASA Projects, Programs and Initiatives and held positions ranging from System Engineer to Operations Manager to Chief to Program Representative across domains including Flight Systems, Ground Systems, Information Technology and Simulation. Roles varied from hands on engineering and integration to team leadership to program management and leadership of multi - center (NASA) teams. Mike led the modeling and simulation organization as a part of the Program System Engineering and Integration (SE&I) for the NASA Constellation Program. Also significant is the partnership with the State of Florida to capture and implement Orion Spacecraft assembly and integration for the State. He received numerous honors, and awards include NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. Mike is also a Porsche Club trained High Performance Driver Education Instructor, coaching drivers on vehicle dynamics and high speed driving on closed courses.
Anna Metke – Director of Operations
Anna Metke is the Director of Operations at Exolith Lab where she facilitates the development of simulated space resources. She focuses on building her career to aid the development of a Sustainable Space Economy. Anna’s background includes 9 years of experience working in business management and 4 years of experience in scientific research. Anna has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and continues her education in the physical sciences. She began her journey specializing in space resources with Deep Space Industries where she aided in simulant production and business development. Anna joined the Exolith Lab team when Deep Space Industries incorporated into UCF. With a passion for science as well as art, she has spent several years participating in science organizations and STEAM outreach programs to encourage young enthusiasts. She also runs a small business where she shares her enthusiasm for space, art, and nature. When she is not at the lab, Anna enjoys travel, hiking, and cooking.
Dr. Zoe Landsman - Chief Scientist
Dr. Zoe Landsman holds both a B.S. in Physics and a PhD in Physics with a Planetary Science specialization, from the University of Central Florida. Her research focuses on characterizing the surfaces of airless bodies using observational and laboratory techniques and thermal modeling. She currently works as a research scientist at the Florida Space Institute and serves as Chief Scientist for Exolith Lab. Working at Exolith appealed to her because it combines her scientific interest in the surfaces of rocky planetary bodies with the excitement of space exploration. Fun fact, in her free time she is a powerlifter!
Jared Long-Fox - Chief Geomechanics Specialist
Jared Long - Fox holds a B.S. in Geology (minor in Mathematics) and an M.S. degree in Geophysics from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He currently works as a Chief Geomechanics Specialist at the Exolith Lab. The Exolith Lab appeals to Jared because the work allows him to combine all of his favorite things - design of experiments, experimental hardware design, data collection, and data analysis. An added bonus - it's all applied to something that he has always considered mystifying and fascinating - space!
Christian Sipe – Lead ISRU Engineer
Christian Sipe is a senior Aerospace Engineering major at the University of Central Florida. He intends to pursue a PhD in Planetary Science following graduation. In the future, he hopes to design and build sustainable space stations on the Lunar surface as well as in orbit. Exolith appealed to Christian because in order to build these stations, there has to be ISRU (in-Situ Resource Utilization) on the Lunar surface.
Lucas Weber – Chief Engineer
Lucas Weber is pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida with hopes of going to graduate school afterwards. He enjoys spending his time working on projects, going to rocket launches, and watching the future of spaceflight become reality. He loves working at Exolith where he can work on undergraduate research and finally join the space industry while it enters a new space race. In the future, Lucas hopes to work in payload integration or In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and be a part of the industry that sends the first humans to mars and builds a permanent colony on the moon.
Alexander Madison – Business Development Manager
Alex Is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida studying Aerospace Engineering. In the future, he hopes to complete a PhD program that will allow him to perform more ISRU research. Alex is the lead mechanical engineer at Florida Space Institute, where he works under Dr. Julie Brisset. As Lab Project Manager he works with day-to-day lab operations as well as long term project goals. He is also involved in multiple engineering projects at Exolith. In his career, Alex aims to help develop ISRU processes to create a sustainable lunar colony.
Konrad Krol – Operations Manager
Konrad Krol is a third-year undergraduate pursuing a degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Central Florida. He currently leads Exolith's Operations on a day-to-day basis ensuring that its production continues to meet the demand of the In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) industry. He also is currently the President of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space at UCF (SEDS-UCF) where he leads the board in all its projects, outreach and events. Konrad really enjoys having the opportunity to share the work being done in the space industry and has spoken at SEDS-USA/SEDS-RICE's SpaceVision 2021 about the ISRU industry with a focus on plant growth research. He has also given a tour of the Museum of Arts and Sciences (Daytona's) Perseverance exhibit and opened the NASA Plant The Moon Challenge (PTMC) Spring 2021 Symposium with a presentation on Exolith and its simulants used by participants. Konrad hopes to continue to work on Supply Chain and Quality engineering in the space industry throughout his career to be able to further play a role in the future of ISRU applications. Once he completes his Bachelor's degree he intends to either pursue a Master's degree in Engineering Management or an MBA in order to continue his education in this field.
Parks Easter – Lab Manager
Parks Easter is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering with a focus on Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Central Florida. Space appealed to him at a young age, from watching the space shuttle launch from his back yard in Jacksonville to attending Space Camp in Huntsville. In his free time he enjoys travelling, collecting vinyl, and reading. He is currently the Vice president of the UCF Astronomy society and is very involved within the UCF Planetary Sciences Department. In the future he hopes to help in building humanity’s future in space through In Situ Resource Utilization and new lunar infrastructure technology.
Makayla Peppin - Geotechnical Research Associate
Makayla Peppin is a Geotechnical Research Associate at Exolith Lab. She has been at Exolith Lab since it opened in 2018 and has been a part of CLASS (Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science) since 2017. She will be graduating with her Bachelor’s in Physics from the University of Central Florida in December 2020. Her work at Exolith focuses on geotechnical property testing and data - analysis for each of the simulants. After she graduates, Makayla hopes to start her graduate career studying the Martian surface and to contribute to the human exploration of space, and the understanding of our solar system. When she is not working, Makayla enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, and scuba diving.
Catherine Millwater – Geotechnical Research Associate
Catherine Millwater is a third-year undergraduate pursuing a degree in physics on the astronomy track with a minor in math at the University of Central Florida. She is the President of the Astronomy Society at UCF and has been a member of an on-campus research group studying extrasolar planets since she was in high school. She is very involved with the UCF Planetary Sciences department and hopes to one day earn her PhD in planetary sciences. In her free time she enjoys rock climbing, watching launches, gardening, and traveling.
Nicholas Moser-Mancewicz – ISRU Engineer
Nicholas is a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on energy systems. Nicholas is passionate about renewable energy systems and hopes to work in the photovoltaic industry for sustainable energy on earth and beyond. In his spare time, Nicholas spends his time rock climbing, growing plants, and cooking. Previously, Nicholas has worked on undergraduate research on solar panels as well as completed a senior design project for the Orlando Utilities Commission for cloud tracking for solar farms. In the future he hopes to do more research work on PV solutions and further his studies.
Joshua Conway – Simulant Engineer
Joshua is an undergraduate pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida. He dreams to one day work for NASA’s Mission Control and to help inspire new generations of engineers and scientists. Previously he worked as a Research Assistant at the World’s largest and most powerful magnet laboratory (National High Magnetic Field Laboratory) where he presented research to the National Science Foundation. Joshua has also completed a Project Management internship at Siemens Energy and has given public speeches for Toastmasters International. “Exolith called to me because it was a chance to have my first ‘space-industry’ job! I was ecstatic when I got hired on, knowing that I get to contribute to the field of space exploration is both a fascinating and fulfilling undertaking.” Joshua is also an active member of multiple student organizations on campus including SEDS (Students for Exploration and Development of Space) and NAR (National Association of Rocketry) where he is currently getting his L1 High-Power Rocketry Certification. In his free time, he enjoys studying Russian, 3D printing, and being physically active.
Ana-Paula Dovali – Lead Simulant Engineer
Ana-Paula Dovali is an undergraduate researcher studying Molecular Microbiology and Cell Science with a focus on Astrobiology at the University of Central Florida. When not working at the lab, Ana-Paula plays for the UCF Women’s Rugby team, walking her dogs, and watching movies. Ana-Paula also actively participates in Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) as a project lead for RASC-AL, an internal affairs officer, and mentor for new members. As she progresses in her career, she hopes to focus her research on terraforming using microorganisms for Mars and study extraterrestrial life. Here at Exolith, Ana Paula loves working with all kinds of regolith and studying their chemical properties. At the lab, she loves working with her coworkers and bringing a smile to their faces. She hopes to implement her experience here into her future projects.
Steven Elsaid – Lead Simulant Engineer
Steven Elsaid is a senior in Biology with a certificate in Geographic Information Science at the University of Central Florida. Steven has a passion for plant biology, microbiology, and chemistry and hopes to use these passions for a graduate program with a focus on astrobiology. When he is not at the lab, Steven can be found gardening, working out, or at his other job where he conducts research on Sea Turtles.
Sheina Rodriguez – Simulant Engineer
Sheina Rodriguez is an undergraduate studying Mechanical Engineering and Studio Art at the University of Central Florida. Her first foray into STEM was through competitive robotics, in which she has won several design awards for sustainably using scrap materials; to this day, her problem solving process begins with, "what can I use that I already have available?" She is excited to work at Exolith because the work being done here is paving the way for sustainable solutions for humans in space through in-situ resource utilization. During her time at UCF, she has participated in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Robotics Club of Central Florida, Out in STEM, and Advanced Design Lab. She is also passionate about supporting living artists, shopping at small businesses, and working with mathematicians to bring enrichment mathematics to underserved youth.
Kārlis Šļumba - Graduate research assistant
Kārl Šļumba is currently looking for a PhD position anywhere on or off the Earth. Kārl is a master student in Physics with a Planetary Sciences specialization atthe University of Central Florida (with Fulbright scholarship). Kārl holds a B.S.in Physics from University of Latvia (2021), (Thesis on Asteroid regolith porosity) and a B.S. in Business and Management (2017), (Thesis on EU R&D spending). His research interests are mainly in ISRU. Kārl has been running his small business for 9 northern summers. One of his goals is to live for a while on every continent before leaving for Mars. If he ever gets free time from fixing his old car, then he loves to travel, hike, climb, ski or surf. Fun fact, Kārl can do stone engraving - inscription.
Riley Havel – Simulant Engineer
Riley Havel is a senior physics student on the astronomy track with a minor in geosciences and a certificate in geographic information systems at the University of Central Florida (UCF). Riley plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences and study the composition of meteorites to help astrobiologists better understand the evolution of our solar system and the origin of life on Earth. She is excited to work at Exolith because it presents a great opportunity to produce and study simulants of the materials, she uses in her research in Dr. Christopher Bennett's Astrochemistry Lab at UCF. When Riley isn't at Exolith, in class, or in the lab, she is spending time with other UCF Knights at sporting events, working out with friends at CrossFit, or watching Gilmore Girls.
Britt, D. T., K. M. Cannon, K. Donaldson Hanna, J. Hogancamp, O. Poch, P. Beck, D. Martin, J. Escrig, L. Bonal, and P. T. Metzger (2019), Simulated asteroid materials based on carbonaceous chondrite mineralogies. MAPS, in press
Metzger, P. T., D. T. Britt, S. Covey, C. Schultz, K. M. Cannon, K. D. Grossman, J. G. Mantovani, and R. P. Mueller (2019), Measuring the fidelity of asteroid regolith and cobble simulants. Icarus, 321, 632-646.
Cannon, K. M., D. T. Britt, T. M. Smith, R. F. Fritsche, and D. Batcheldor (2019), Mars Global Simulant MGS-1: A Rocknest-based Open Standard for Basaltic Martian Regolith Simulants. Icarus, 317, 470-478.