Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Sarah Nichole Valencia (she/her)


Sarah Nichole Valencia (she/her)'s Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.614.6831
Org Code: 698
Mail Code 698
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

Dr. Sarah Valencia is a lunar petrologist with the University of Maryland College Park at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland. Her work focuses on the evolution of igneous systems on the Moon. In particular, she is interested in Moon rocks with unusual compositions. To accomplish her research goals, Dr. Valencia studies rocks from the Moon – both from the Apollo sample collection and lunar meteorites. One area of her research is trying to understand how granite forms on the Moon. Unlike Earth, the Moon lacks the water and plate tectonics typically associated with granite formation. Yet, small fragments of granite occur within the Apollo sample collection, and granitic bodies have been detected from spacecraft orbiting the Moon. Dr. Valencia studies fragments of lunar granite and rocks associated with granite to understand the chemistry of these rocks, how they are related, and how they might have formed.  Dr. Valencia also uses data gathered by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has been in orbit around the Moon since 2009, to study the evolution of lunar rocks on the surface of the Moon. One region she is particularly interested in is the Apennine Bench Formation, near the Apollo 15 landing site in Mare Imbrium. This geologic formation may represent the only exposure of KREEP basalt on the lunar surface. KREEP basalts have been found in the Apollo sample collection but have not been unequivocally been identified on the lunar surface. Dr. Valencia uses the images taken by the cameras aboard LRO to study the surface properties of the Apennine Bench to understand it’s origin and evolution.

Current Projects

Unraveling the extent of basaltic volcanism in the South Pole – Aitken basin

Remote Sensing

This project seeks to understand the extent of volcanism in the South Pole - Aitken basin on the lunar farside by looking at the surface expression of cryptomare.

Cosmic-ray exposure ages of pristine sample horizons

Planetary Geology

This project, funded through the Apollo Next Generation Sample Analysis (ANGSA) program, aims to explore the chemistry and noble gas history of previously unopened Apollo 17 samples.

Lunar-VISE: An investigation of the Moon’s non-mare silicic volcanism

Planetary Geology

The Lunar-VISE instrument package will land on the Moon at the Gruithuisen Domes in 2026 through the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to explore silicic volcanic domes on the lunar surface.


Postdoctoral Associate

University of Maryland, College Park - College Park, Maryland

May 2018 - Present

CRESST II Program through NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center


Washington University – St. Louis, MO

August 2012 – May 2017

M.A. Earth & Planetary Sciences May 2014

Ph.D. Earth & Planetary Sciences May 2017

Advisors: Bradley L. Jolliff, Randy L. Korotev

Dissertation Title: The Evolution of Igneous Rocks on the Moon: Insights from Lunar Meteorites and Apollo 12


University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI

August 2007 – December 2010

B.S. Geological Sciences December 2010


Microanalysis Society Early Career Scholar – May 2016

Carl Tolman Prize for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant – October 2015

Professional Societies

Next Generation of Lunar Scientists and Engineers

Organizing Committee

2013 - Present

Lunar Exploration and Analysis Group (LEAG)

Early Career Representative

2020 - Present

Extraterrestrial Materials Assessment Group (ExMAG) Lunar Subcommittee

LEAG Ex Officio Member

2022 - Present

Professional Service

Editorial Duties

Editor - New Views of the Moon 2

Guest Associate Editor - Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, “50 Years of Apollo Science”


NASA ROSES Review Panels

Group chief, panelist, and executive secretary


Meeting Recorder

New Views of the Moon 2 Workshop, May 2016

Lunar Science for Landed Missions Workshop, January 2018

Lunar Surface Science Workshop, May 2020

Peer Reviewer

Meteoritics and Planetary Science, Nature Communications, Planetary Science Journal, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets

Conference Planning Committees

Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. August 2022

Lunar Petrology and Landed Instruments Interchange Workshop. August 2022

LEAG Town Hall on the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. May 2022

Lunar Surface Science Workshop: Landing Sites and Capabilities for Future CLPS Deliveries. November 2021

Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. August/September 2021

Selected Publications


2020. "Evidence for a Stratified Upper Mantle Preserved within the South Pole – Aitken Basin." Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets [10.1029/2020JE006589] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Illuminating the Lunar Mantle: A Brief Assessment of the State of Current Knowledge and Critical Exploration Targets for Advancing our Understanding." Nature Communications [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Petrography, relationships, and petrogenesis of the gabbroic lithologies in Northwest Africa 773 clan members Northwest Africa 773, 2727, 3160, 3170, 7007, and 10656." Meteoritics & Planetary Science 54 (9): 2083-2115 [10.1111/maps.13370] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Lunar Science for Landed Missions Workshop Findings Report." Earth and Space Science 6 2-40 [10.1029/2018ea000490] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "OCEANUS: A high science return Uranus orbiter with a low-cost instrument suite." Acta Astronautica 148 1-11 [10.1016/j.actaastro.2018.04.019] [Journal Article/Letter]


2020. "End-member volcanism in the absence of plate tectonics: Silicic volcanism on the Moon." 2023–2032 NAS Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey [Report]

Talks, Presentations and Posters


The Formation of Lunar Granite: Observations from Remote Sensing and Apollo Samples

September 2022

Lunar and Planetary Institute Colloquium

Quantitative Compositional Mapping of Particles from the Apollo 17 Core 73002

September 2021

Microscopy and Microanalysis 2021 Meeting

End-member volcanism in the absence of plate tectonics: Silicic volcanism on the Moon


Presentation to the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032: Panel on Mercury and the Moon

The Formation of Lunar Granite: Observations from Remote Sensing and Apollo Samples


Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Colloquium

Surface Composition and Mineralogy of the Apennine Bench Formation


Code 600 Director’s Seminar

How the Apollo samples have shaped (and reshaped) our understanding of the Moon.

October 2019

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Colloquium

From µm to km: Exploring lunar geochemistry and both small and large scales.

August 2018

SSERVI Exploration Science Forum 2018


Teaching Experience

Teaching Assistant: Earth Materials

Dr. Jill Pasteris; Fall semesters 2013, 2104, 2015

Teaching Assistant: Earth and the Environment

Dr. Michael Wysession; Fall semester 2012


Selected Public Outreach

Letters to a Pre-Scientist

2016 - 2017

Pen pal program where elementary to high school aged students are matched with scientist pen pals.

Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students

2016 - 2022

Scientist advisor and judge for students participating in ExMASS – a program managed by the Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, with the NASA Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute during which high school students undertake a research project and prepare a poster presentation.

Career paths in Science

2018 - 2018

Presentations to middle and high school students about career paths in science, a day in the life of a scientist, and opportunities for students.


2022 - Present