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Space Exploration is not something Chicago Student Mawuto Akploh says she finds in her Textbooks or Classroom discussion in her School

Moses views the opportunity for widely available space flight as a unifying endeavor for humanity, but knows well that the final frontier of space is a difficult environment to master.

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Virgin Galactic- founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, seeking to be the first company consistently taking paying passengers into orbit. Source-Wikimedia commons
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Chicago, May 20, 2017: Space exploration is not something Chicago student Mawuto Akploh says she finds in her textbooks or classroom discussion in her school.

“We do physics, biology, earth, and space sciences,” she told VOA. “But we never actually take the time to talk about the people who actually do those things.”

Akploh is originally from Togo and immigrated with her parents to the United States when she was a young child. She now attends a Chicago area high school career academy, and just became certified as an automobile mechanic.

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Akploh says aerospace engineering wasn’t an option at her school.

“It’s not that people don’t want to do it… it’s that people don’t know about it.”

That lack of knowledge has, in part, fueled a shortage of students in the U.S. seeking advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math – also known as STEM. Fields the aerospace industry depends on.

“There is a shortage across engineering which I think is generally bad for humanity.” Which is one reason Beth Moses hopes her career serves as an inspiration to others to answer that shortage.

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After successfully serving at NASA as the assembly manager for the International Space Station, Moses is now the chief astronaut trainer at Virgin Galactic, founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, seeking to be the first company consistently taking paying passengers into orbit.

“We are doing something, and I am doing something that has never been done before,” she explained to VOA. “There’s no road map, there’s no instruction manual, no guidance on how to do this.”

Which is why, as Moses writes one of the new instruction manuals in the emerging field of commercial human spaceflight, the need for more engineers is critical to help her company – and others – meet the demands of a growing industry that Moses says doesn’t “come in pink or blue.”

“In my entire time, in school and in aerospace engineering both at NASA and here at Virgin Galactic, I’ve never once had any hassle or gender issue, and there have been plenty of women around and also plenty of diversity of all kinds… age, race, points of view.”

It was a message Moses reinforced to those gathered at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, where she was awarded the 2017 “Women in Space Science Award” from the Adler Planetarium’s Women’s Board.

It also was a part of her pitch to hundreds of Chicago area high school students, including Mawuto Akploh, who gathered to see her speak at the place that sparked Moses’ own interest in space… the Adler Planetarium.

In front of a large view screen in the Adler’s theater, the audience was awed by her video presentation showing test flight footage from Virgin Galactic, and what the experience of heading into space as a commercial passenger with her company might look like, when it takes off.

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Moses views the opportunity for widely available space flight as a unifying endeavor for humanity, but knows well that the final frontier of space is a difficult environment to master.

In 2006, Richard Branson told VOA he was hopeful Virgin Galactic would be orbiting the earth soon.

“Twenty-four months from now, my parents, my children and myself shall be popping into space,” he said with a grin.

But a series of setbacks, including a crash in 2014 that led to the death of one of the test spacecraft’s co-pilots, has pushed that timeline back.

Eleven years later, Branson still waits to be his company’s first passenger.

He told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph in April he hopes to see Virgin Galactic’s first sub-orbital flight by the end of 2017.

“We are in the air and we are working our way through a test program,” Moses told VOA. “When it is complete and the vehicle is safe, we’ll start commercial flights with Richard and his family.”

Those are flights that more than 700 passengers have already paid more than $200,000 to experience, reinforcing to students contemplating a career in aerospace engineering that not only is it in demand, it could also be lucrative… something Mawuto Akploh is keeping in mind as she plans for college, where a course of study in physics is her top pick. (VOA)

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home

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NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars
NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars. Pixabay

After a mechanical problem took NASA Mars rover Curiosity’s drill offline in December 2016, it has now successfully tested a new drilling method on the Red Planet, making a 50-millimetre deep hole in a target called “Duluth”, NASA has said.

Engineers working with the Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them.

On May 20, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new technique, called Feed Extended Drilling, keeps the drill’s bit extended out past two stabiliser posts that were originally used to steady the drill against Martian rocks.

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

“The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We’re thrilled that the result was so successful,” Lee said.

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity’s capabilities to study Mars.

Inside the rover are two laboratories that are able to conduct chemical and mineralogical analyses of rock and soil samples.

The samples are acquired from Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since 2012.

“We’ve been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn’t done once a sample has been collected on Mars,” said JPL’s Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity’s new drilling method.

Also Read: NASA Probe to ‘Touch’ the Sun Will Carry 1.1 mn Names

“With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our test bed to iterate on the process.”

There’s also the next step to work on — delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover.

As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover’s laboratories, NASA said. (IANS)