Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Brief Bio

Natalie Curran is a Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She has an undergraduate degree in Geology with Planetary Science and a PhD in Lunar Geology. Her focus is the regolith history and impact flux on the Moon through time.

Research Interests

Regolith History of the Moon

Solar System: Planetary surfaces

Currently, Natalie's research interests focus on the geology of the Moon. She investigates the history of lunar samples to understand the impact flux at the Moon and in the Solar System through time, and to understand the processes that modify and evolve a planetary crust. She use noble gases to determine the cosmic ray exposure age (He, Ne, Arm Kr, Xe) and formation age (using the Ar-Ar dating technique) of lunar samples. The main analytical instruments she use are noble gas mass spectrometers (HELIX-MC), Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM), Electron Microprobes Analyser (EPMA).

Current Projects

Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis

Cosmic Rays

Natalie is Science-PI for one of the nine teams selected to studied pristine lunar samples that have been carefully stored and untouched in nearly 50 years. Her team are studying a vacuum-sealed sample to investigate the geologic history of the Apollo 17 site, looking at the abundance of noble gases in the sample and their mineralogic, petrologic and chemical composition. 

Impact history at the Apollo 16 landing site

Planetary surfaces

Investigating impact-melt populations in an Apollo 16 double-drive-tube. Natalie will analyse the argon content of the samples to determine thier Ar-Ar age to further understand the impact flux at the Apollo 16 landing site.


Research Scientist

Catholic University of America - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

February 2020 - Present

Natalie is the Science-PI of the Mid-Atlantic Noble Gas Research Laboratory (MNGRL, 'MoonGirl') focused on the analysis of planetary sample using noble gas techniques.

NASA Postdoctoral Fellow

NASA Postdoctoral Program/USRA - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

February 2017 - February 2020

Understanding the Apollo 17 landing site by investigating the cosmic ray exposure age of pristine lunar samples (part of the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis program).

Age determination of Apollo 16 drill core (using the Ar-Ar dating technique) and in situ K-Ar dating techniques for planetary missions.


Visiting Scientist

University of Manchester - Manchester, UK

December 2016 - February 2017

Lunar Regolith Report and database: Extracting and analysing all the available noble gas data, for lunar samples, in preparation for upcoming Luna-27 missions to the Moon. 

Meteor Crater Field Camp

Universities Space Research Association and Royal Astronomical Society (UK) - Meteor Crater, Arizona (USA)

October 2014 - October 2014

Selected participant in a field trip to Barringer ‘Meteor’ Crater. This included a geological mapping project within the ejecta blanket. This fieldtrip was partially funded by the USRA (US) and the RAS (UK).

Lunar Exploration Summer Intern

Universities Space Research Association - Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), Houston, Texas

May 2013 - August 2013

A selected team member designing a sample return mission to the lunar farside using a planetary rover. Final results were presented to a panel of NASA scientist and engineers. Funded by USRA and supervised by Dr David Kring.

Teaching Experience

Sample Analysis and Dating Specialist for Artemis astronauts (2023-2024).

Guest Lecturer in Ar-Ar dating at the University of Arizona (Nov 2021).

Field teaching assistant on a 4th year undergraduate planetary science field trip to The Ries Impact Crater, Germany.

Teaching assistant for three undergraduate courses at the University of Manchester (‘Geophysical Techniques’, Earth Materials and ‘Interpretation of Geological Maps’).

Planned and participated in several school visits, giving talks on the Moon and teaching secondary school students (11-15 years) about planetary science.

 Co-Supervisor of 4th-year undergraduate student (University of Manchester).




Joy, K. H., J. Gross, R. L. Korotev, et al. R. A. Zeigler, F. M. McCubbin, J. F. Snape, N. M. Curran, J. F. Pernet-Fisher, and T. Arai. 2023. Lunar Meteorites Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 89 (1): 509-562 [10.2138/rmg.2023.89.12]

Cohen, B. A., C. H. van der Bogert, W. F. Bottke, et al. N. M. Curran, C. I. Fassett, H. Hiesinger, K. H. Joy, S. Mazrouei, A. Nemchin, G. A. Neumann, M. D. Norman, and N. E. Zellner. 2023. Impact History of the Moon Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 89 (1): 373-400 [10.2138/rmg.2023.89.09]

Saxena, P., L. S. Morrissey, R. M. Killen, et al. J. L. McLain, L. H. Yeo, N. M. Curran, N. S. Abraham, H. V. Graham, O. J. Tucker, M. Sarantos, A. B. Regberg, D. E. Pugel, A. W. Needham, M. Hasegawa, and A. J. Wong. 2023. In Situ Optimized Substrate Witness Plates: Ground Truth for Key Processes on the Moon and Other Planets Earth and Space Science 10 (9): [10.1029/2023ea003004]

Saxena, P., H. Graham, N. Curran, et al. D. Pugel, A. Regberg, A. Needham, and N. Petro. 2023. Incorporating Potential Habitable Niches for Microbial Life on the Lunar South Pole into Artemis Planning LPI Contributions 2989 2020

Curran, N. M., S. N. Valencia (she/her), C. C. Corrigan, E. S. Bullock, and B. A. Cohen. 2023. Exposure History of Apollo 17 Double-Drive Tube 73001/73002 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, held 13-17 March, 2023 at The Woodlands, Texas and virtually. LPI Contribution No. 2806, id.2206 54

Saxena, P., N. Curran, and H. Graham. 2022. Lunar PAGES: Lunar Probes of the Ancient Galaxy, Earth and Sun AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts 2022 U25B-0499

Yingst, R. A., J. K. Bartley, T. J. Chidsey, et al. B. A. Cohen, N. Curran, B. M. Hynek, L. C. Kah, M. E. Minitti, M. D. Vanden Berg, R. M. Williams, J. Gemperline, M. Lotto, S. Black, B. C. Bartley, and T. Pearson. 2022. Testing Rover Science Protocols to Identify Possible Biosignatures on Mars: Achieving Sampling Goals Under a Highly Constrained Time Line Astrobiology 22 (11): 1310-1329 [10.1089/ast.2021.0177]

Cohen, B. A., K. E. Young, N. E. Zellner, et al. K. Zacny, R. A. Yingst, R. N. Watkins, R. Warwick, S. N. Valencia, T. D. Swindle, S. J. Robbins, N. E. Petro, A. Nicoletti, D. P. Moriarty, R. Lynch, S. J. Indyk, J. Gross, J. A. Grier, J. A. Grant, A. Ginyard, C. I. Fassett, K. A. Farley, B. J. Farcy, B. L. Ehlmann, M. D. Dyar, G. Daelemans, N. M. Curran, C. H. van der Bogert, R. D. Arevalo, and F. Scott Anderson. 2021. In Situ Geochronology for the Next Decade: Mission Designs for the Moon, Mars, and Vesta The Planetary Science Journal 2 (4): 145 [10.3847/psj/abedbf]

Cohen, B., G. F. Herzog, S. J. Jaret, et al. J. I. Simon, T. D. Swindle, S. E. Suarez, M. M. Tremblay, B. D. Turrin, N. Zellner, N. M. Curran, S. J. Robbins, C. Crow, F. S. Anderson, K. V. Hodges, D. L. Shuster, T. Lapen, G. Gehrels, M. Wadhwa, M. W. Caffee, C. M. Mercer, F. Cattani, B. Frasl, R. A. Jr., J. A. Cartwright, D. R. Dunlap, R. DeWitt, M. R. Kirchoff, C. I. Fassett, C. R. Neal, K. D. Runyon, and D. P. Moriarty. 2021. Geochronology as a Framework for Inner Solar System History and Evolution Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.1b2670e3]

Curran, N., M. Nottingham, L. Alexander, et al. I. Crawford, F. , and K. Joy. 2020. A database of noble gases in lunar samples in preparation for mass spectrometry on the Moon Planetary and Space Science 182 104823

Saxena, P., R. M. Killen, V. Airapetian, et al. N. E. Petro, N. M. Curran, and A. M. Mandell. 2019. Was the Sun a Slow Rotator? Sodium and Potassium Constraints from the Lunar Regolith The Astrophysical Journal 876 (1): L16 [10.3847/2041-8213/ab18fb]

Curran, N. M., K. Joy, J. Snape, et al. J. F. Pernet-Fisher, J. D. Gilmour, A. Nemchin, M. Whitehouse, and R. Burgess. 2019. The early geological history of the Moon inferred from ancient lunar meteorite Miller Range 13317 Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 1401-1430

Curran, N., D. Bower, B. Frasl, and B. Cohen. 2018. Age Distribution of Lunar Impact-Melt Rocks in Apollo Drive-Tube 68001/2 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 49 2732

Snape, J. F., N. M. Curran, M. J. Whitehouse, et al. A. A. Nemchin, K. H. Joy, T. Hopkinson, M. Anand, J. J. Bellucci, and G. G. Kenny. 2018. Ancient volcanism on the Moon: Insights from Pb isotopes in the MIL 13317 and Kalahari 009 lunar meteorites Earth and Planetary Science Letters 502 84--95

Curran, N. 2017. Unravelling the History of the Lunar Regolith PhD Thesis

Gregory, T., K. H. Joy, S. Strekopytov, and N. M. Curran. 2017. Geochemistry and petrology of howardite Miller Range 11100: A lithologically diverse piece of the Vestan regolith Meteoritics & Planetary Science 52 (2): 206--224

Broadley, M. W., R. Burgess, H. Kumagai, N. M. Curran, and C. J. Ballentine. 2017. Halogen variations through the quenched margin of a M ORB lava: Evidence for direct assimilation of seawater during eruption Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems 18 (7): 2413--2428

Curran, N., K. Joy, J. Pernet-Fisher, and R. Burgess. 2016. A New Basaltic-Bearing Lunar Meteorite Miller Range 13317 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 47 1516

Joy, K. H., I. A. Crawford, N. M. Curran, et al. M. Zolensky, A. F. Fagan, and D. A. Kring. 2016. The Moon: an archive of small body migration in the solar system Earth, Moon, and Planets 118 (2-3): 133--158

Potts, N. J., A. L. Gullikson, N. M. Curran, et al. J. K. Dhaliwal, M. K. Leader, R. N. Rege, K. K. Klaus, and D. A. Kring. 2015. Robotic traverse and sample return strategies for a lunar farside mission to the Schr"odinger basin Advances in Space Research 55 (4): 1241--1254

Curran, N., K. Joy, and R. Burgess. 2014. Determining the Regolith Histories of Lunar Meteorites Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 45 1467

Curran, N., A. Gullikson, N. Potts, et al. J. Dhaliwal, M. Leader, R. Rege, and D. Kring. 2014. A Robotic Sample Return Mission to the Northern Portion of the Schr"odinger Basin Peak Ring Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 45 1475


Saxena, P., H. V. Graham, and N. M. Curran. 2022. Lunar Samples are Time Capsules of the Sun Heliophysics Decadal Survey White Paper []

Saxena, P., R. M. Killen, V. Airapetian, et al. N. E. Petro, N. M. Curran, and A. M. Mandell. 2019. The Sun was likely a Slow Rotator: Lunar Geochemical Constraints LPI (50.3050s):

Saxena, P., R. Killen, V. Airapetian, et al. N. Petro, N. Curran, and A. Mandell. 2019. The Sun was likely a Slow Rotator: Lunar Geochemical Constraints Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 50

Curran, N., D. Bower, and B. Cohen. 2017. Near-Surface Age Distribution of Lunar Impact-Melt Rocks 2017 Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group 2041

Bower, D., N. Curran, and B. Cohen. 2017. Determining the Mineralogy of Lunar Samples Using Micro Raman Spectroscopy: Comparisons Between Polished and Unpolished Samples 2017 Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group 2041

McDonald, F., D. Martin, N. Curran, and A. Calzada-Diaz. 2015. Exploring the Moon on Earth Astronomy & Geophysics 56 (6): 6--31

Selected Public Outreach

International Observe the Moon Night

2017 - Present

Natalie participates in the International Observe the Moon Night annually. She host a table where everyone can hold and learn all about the Moon.

WUSA9 TV interview

August 2019 - August 2019

NASA Explorers Podcast: Apollo

July 2019 - July 2019

NASA Explorers Facebook live

August 2019 - August 2019

Prince Georges Community TV

August 2019 - August 2019

WHSV-TV article

December 2019 - December 2019

Professional Societies

NASA Goddard Association of Postdoctoral Scholars (NGAPS)

Co-chair since 2018

2017 - 2021

American Geophysical Union

2019 - Present

UK Planetary Forum

Co-chair from 2014 to 2016

2012 - Present

Professional Service

Co-chair of the NASA Goddard Association of Postdoctoral Scholars

Scientific Organizing Committee for this the NASA Exploration Science Forum 2019

Review panalist: NASA PICASSO, NASA Solar System Workings, and external reviews

Co-chair of the UK planetary Forum (2014-2016)

Organised the UK Planetary Forum Early Careers Conference in 2015 and 2016

Member of the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration Team 2013

Reviewer for multiple journals: GCA, JGR, MaPS, and PSS