For the past 7 months I have been involved in a NASA program for undergraduate research. NASA put out the call that they needed ideas for tools to go on manned asteroid missions. They wanted college students to take on brainstorming ideas and presenting these ideas in a form that could be used by NASA engineers in the future. I was made team leader and helped put together a team of students from Boise State University.
Being a part of this program ultimately meant writing 3 technical reports, making a trip to NASA Johnson Space Center, and standing for formal technical review and a test of the manufactured tool in a simulated microgravity environment. As a college student this kind of felt like going to a rocket launch with your pinewood derby car but it turned out okay.
Before we headed to NASA there was a lot of work to do. We had to think up a great idea for a tool. There are so many different ways you can build a tool for an asteroid but there are also many technical requirements you have to be aware of. Like low gravity, safety of the astronaut, and feasibility. But luckily we had a former astronaut to advise us, a NASA mentor who works in Mission Control and some great engineering experience from other advisers. To start we had a few carboard models made for us by one of our advisers, and then we had to write a proposal detailing our ideas and our plan for the rest of the program.
After the first proposal we then had to write a second document that was about 60 pages long on the safety of our tool. These two technical documents contained drawings, 3D models, technical specfications for the materials we used and detailed handling instructions. And we were still working on building this thing.
One of my favorite parts about engineering and the projects I have been a part of during my career, is the ability to take an idea all the way up to fabrication. Being a part of this process and celebrating with my team on our success, crawling during the setbacks but then bouncing back and getting everything ready for our trip was what made the experience worth it. If it wasn’t for the TEAM this would not have gotten far or offered much in reward.
So did we make it to NASA and how did it test? —> NASA Part 2