Nasa Trip 2016

Nasa Trip 2016

 

On the 17th of January we left a snow covered Southern England at 5am to catch our 9.30 flight from Heathrow. One week later, we returned, exhausted, academically challenged but very happy.  

32 of our most talented Science and Engineering  students travelled to Houston Texas to take part in Space University, NASA’s Science and Engineering Masterclasses.

Working with experienced NASA Engineers and Scientists; Dave, Jeff, Russ and Derek. All our challenges were based around NASA’s current brief which is to take man to Mars. Nasa are already working on a new launch system and have the space capsule Orion nearing completion. Much of the work Tim Peake is currently doing on the ISS is research into the physiological effects of long term space travel.

Students worked in 4 person teams and were each given a  $600 million budget for the week.

Challenges:

Thermal shield design. Using a variety of materials to protect an egg from a propane blow torch for 2 minutes. Thermal shields are used to protect spacecraft from burning up in the atmosphere on re-entry.

Cryogenic Capsule design. Our task was to use a range of materials to protect an Astronaut (A marshmallow!) from the extremely low temperatures found in Space. We used Liquid Nitrogen (-176 ℃!) to test our designs.

Mars Habitat design. Our most complex task was to design a habitat suitable for 10-20 Astronauts, we had to  take account of a huge list of criteria including protecting them from Solar Radiation, providing a breathable atmosphere, food and accommodation, recreation laboratory space and waste disposal and sanitation. The winning design is currently on display in the Starship Gallery. (Louise and Frances were interviewed by German TV!)

Mars Rover. Essential to any self respecting Mars trip is the need to collect rock samples and ours was no different. Our Mars Rover Robots had to collect 6 rock samples and return them to base.

EVA (Spacewalk!) challenge aka scuba diving. All Astronauts are trained to make EVAs (extra vehicular activities) in the  huge Neutral Bouyancy Lab.We visited and watched Astronauts training, and then retired to the William Pool, a more modest sized pool where after a thorough introduction to SCUBA diving the students completed their own EVA activity.

2 stage rocket. Design and build a 2 stage rocket, launch it, watch it separate, fire stage 2, separate, deploy its parachute and bring the Capsule floating gently back to earth… simply.

On our final morning, we met an astronaut, Colonel Ken Cameron, a veteran of 3 space missions and commander of Atlantis.  He was a truly inspirational speaker and the students were hanging on his every word.  He made the students feel comfortable and they asked a range of questions, which he happily expanded on.  He clearly enjoyed sharing his experiences and relished the opportunity to promote NASA engineering as a career.