While NASA already has plenty of scientists, it still regularly works with research teams from various universities and non-profit orgs. It even created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to oversee some of its collaborations. In fact, the agency has added four new teams looking to study the moon, near-Earth asteroids and Martian moons Phobos and Deimos to SSERVI's roster. The first group from the University of Colorado plans to conduct a study on robotics, cosmology, astrophysics and heliophysics with the intention of advancing manned space exploration.
Another team working on a project called "Toolbox for Research and Exploration" or TREX will develop tools and methods for the manned exploration of celestial bodies coated in fine-grained dust, such as asteroids and the moon. The third group from Georgia Institute of Technology will explore how radiation affects human-made composite materials. They'll also look into how real-time detectors can help minimize astronauts' exposure to harmful radiation.
The last group who named their project ESPRESSO (short for Exploration Science Pathfinder Research for Enhancing Solar System Observations) will help NASA understand hazardous events that could harm robotic and human explorers in space. If scientists can understand those events better, they'll be able to predict and avoid them. The agency chose these four out of the 22 proposals it received, bringing the total number of projects SSERVI's in charge of to 13. NASA will set aside $3 to $5 million of its (increasingly smaller) budget per year to fund the teams' research for the next five years.