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For their Future Projects, NASA tests Underwater tools made by students

The U.S. space agency invited college students from around the country to design, build and test devices and tools that could be useful on future missions

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NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory Astronaut Training Image source: Wikipedia
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Scuba divers worked a crank on a metal box that soon sent up a cloud of dust from the pallet of gravel where the device was anchored. Watching them closely on control room monitors, Mathew, an engineering student from West Virginia University, provided instructions.

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“The only reference is the driver’s non-dominant hand should be grasping the handle on the side of the case,” he said, who is also the project manager for a team of West Virginia University.

T NASA selected 25 teams and invited them to Houston to test their creations.

Asteroid material sampling

The main mission for which these tools would be needed is NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, said NASA’s Microgravity Next Program Manager Trinesha Dixon.

“The Asteroid Redirect Mission is looking for solutions as to how the crew members might collect samples on an asteroid,” she said.

NASA plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to an asteroid in September to extract small samples for analysis. A mission with astronauts on board is planned for sometime after 2020, utilizing the Orion spacecraft, a model of which is in the Johnson Space Center training facility.

Aerial View of NASA. Image source: Wikipedia
Aerial View of NASA. Image source: Wikipedia

Dixon said part of the difficulty in designing tools for such a mission is that no one knows what kind of material will be found on an asteroid, how hard it will be to penetrate, and what kind of effect might be produced by drilling or chopping into it.

After divers returned their device at pool’s edge, the West Virginia University students took it back to the large hall where each team had a separate table. There, they took it apart and carefully cleaned all the parts, including the two augurs that would be utilized to drill into the surface of an asteroid and extract material. Coming from a state known for mining, the team initially modeled its device on mechanisms used in mines that clamp to a surface and hold the drill steady.

Mathew Morrow explained, “When astronauts visit an asteroid, they need a tool out on the asteroid that can anchor, to hook their tools to, so we chose that design challenge.”

NASA supplied criteria for five separate types of tools or devices and let the students use their creativity and knowledge of engineering to come up with designs. Once the designs were accepted, they then had to build a prototype for testing.

“This is all student driven,” said West Virginia University College of Engineering and Mineral Resources professor Thomas Evans, who accompanied the three-student team to Houston. “I was just the faculty adviser and mentored them and drove them to deliver a product on time so they could be down here.”

Their device worked even better than expected, according to Evans.

“It was exceptional! I think this team did a fantastic job,” he said.

Evans said the West Virginia University team benefited from frequent visits to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the neighboring state of Maryland, where Mathew Morrow had an internship.

Ideas NASA can use for space tool development

The experience was exciting for the students involved, but they may also one day see some of the elements in their designs used in devices that astronauts employ in space.

NASA’s Dixon said, “We can take components from different tools, concepts that the student teams might come up with, and put them together in our conceptualization of that tool.”

In addition to that, she said, having such a program encourages students interested in space flight to continue their studies and possibly become part of NASA’s future workforce.

Mathew Morrow is one who has such hopes.

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“I am really hoping that there might be an opportunity there (NASA) or somewhere else in the space industry, whether it be in a private company or with the government,” he said.

Opportunities in the private sector for space engineers have diversified from being mainly contractors building rockets and other equipment for NASA to service companies with their own spacecraft that can ferry supplies to the International Space Station, and may one day take passengers into space and become involved in efforts to extract minerals and other resources from the moon, asteroids or other planets. (VOA)

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Emmy Awards 2018: NASA Nominated for Stunning Footage of Cassini voyage to Saturn

The Emmy Awards nominations have turned out to be more diverse than last year

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The Primetime Emmys will be awarded by the ATAS in Los Angeles on September 17.
The Primetime Emmys will be awarded by the ATAS in Los Angeles on September 17. Flickr

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) has nominated NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for Outstanding Original Interactive Program for its coverage of the Cassini mission’s Grand Finale at Saturn.

The Primetime Emmys will be awarded by the ATAS in Los Angeles on September 17.

The Creative Arts Emmys, which include interactive awards, will be presented during a separate ceremony on September 15 at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

In 2017, after nearly 20 years in space and 13 years revealing the wonders of Saturn, NASA’s Cassini orbiter was running out of fuel. As a final act, Cassini began a whole new mission — its Grand Finale, where it journeyed into the unknown and ended with a spectacular plunge into the planet.

Cassini’s first, daring dive into the unexplored space between the giant planet and its rings kicked off the campaign on April 26 in 2017.

NASA's stunning footage of Cassini lands Emmy nomination
NASA’s stunning footage of Cassini lands Emmy nomination. Pixabay

It culminated on September 15, 2017, with live coverage of Cassini’s plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, with the spacecraft sending back science to the very last second.

JPL created a multi-month digital campaign to celebrate the mission’s science and engineering accomplishments and communicate why the spacecraft must meet its end in the skies of Saturn.

The multi-faceted campaign included regular updates on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the Cassini mission website, multiple live social, web and TV broadcasts during which reporter and public questions were answered.

Also Read: NASA Juno Data Indicate Another Possible Volcano on Jupiter Moon Io

A dramatic short film to communicate the mission’s story and preview its endgame; multiple 360-degree videos, including NASA’s first 360-degree livestream of a mission event from inside JPL mission control.

The Emmy Awards nominations have turned out to be more diverse than last year. Fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” has earned 22 nominations for the coveted Awards, while HBO’s 17-year streak as the most nominated network has been broken by Netflix. (IANS)