Both NASA and the international community have long recognized the necessity to encourage and train the next generation of lunar scientists and engineers. Founded in 2008, the Next Generation Lunar Scientists and Engineers (NGLSE or “NextGen”) Group is an assemblage of graduate students, postdocs, and early career scientists and engineers who have a passion and vision for lunar science and exploration, and who are the future lunar workforce for NASA, academia, and industry. The primary purpose of NextGen is to provide guidance and networking opportunities to early career lunar students and professionals, as well as to foster collaboration with other groups within the lunar community .
NextGen fosters the development of the next generation of lunar professionals by providing workshops and career training, offering a support network for young lunar scientists and engineers, and providing opportunities for leadership and for learning from the more experienced generation of lunar researchers. NextGen is, and has since 2008, providing NASA and industry with a workforce that is focused on and experienced with the integration of science and engineering as it pertains to human and robotic lunar exploration-enabled science.
By 2011, interest in NextGen had grown and the group consisted of nearly 200 members from academia, industry, and NASA personnel. The group’s founders applied for and received NASA funding to design and fund experience-building and networking activities for NextGen group members. These activities included professional development workshops and community-building events that served to better equip the members to contribute to the success of the lunar program. In addition to early NASA support, NextGen received support from the then-NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI; now the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute; SSERVI) to host workshops in association with major conferences featuring lunar science content. The NLSI also provided funding for NextGen to offer travel grants for students to attend these conferences. The first official NextGen workshop was held in 2010 in association with the 2010 NASA Lunar Science Forum (now the SSERVI Exploration Science Forum; ESF).
Although NextGen currently does not receive financial support through grants or other lunar-related groups directly, the group has been and continues to be strongly supported by both SSERVI and LEAG. These two groups both provide travel grants (e.g., the B. Ray Hawke Next Lunar Generation Career Development Award and the Larry Taylor Travel Fund) for students and postdocs to attend meetings such as the SSERVI Exploration Science Forum (ESF) and the LEAG Annual Meeting.
Members of NextGen published a paper detailing the importance and contribution of NextGen in 2021.