Using 3D printing, fiberglass and stainless steel, a team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University developed a tool that could help NASA explore underneath ice-covered surfaces in space.
Embry-Riddle was one of 25 teams across the U.S. selected to participate in a simulated microgravity challenge at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
As part of the Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams (Micro-g NExT) challenge, undergraduate students designed, built and tested various tools that address an authentic, current space exploration challenge.
The space tools were tested this week at Johnson’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), which includes a 6.2-million-gallon indoor pool used to train NASA astronauts for spacewalks.
Micro-g NExT, which is sponsored by NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, is designed to encourage research and development in new technologies and engage students in real-world engineering and problem-solving concepts that may be needed on future exploration missions.
“NASA Microgravity Project provides a unique out-of-class learning experience for our students dealing with the aerospace environment,” said Sathya Gangadharan, Ph.D. professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-advisor on the project with Pedro Llanos, Ph.D., assistant professor of Spaceflight Operations and Payload and Integration Lab Supervisor.
Gangadharan said the team had to develop a successful proposal and design, fabricate, integrate, and test their innovative idea while working closely since the fall with a NASA mentor and Embry-Riddle advisors. In addition to conducting the experiment, the team had to write a professional report to NASA with the results of their project, participate in a successful fund-raising campaign and work closely with K-12 students to raise awareness of STEM education as it applies to the aerospace industry.
The Embry-Riddle Microgravity Club chose to construct an Under Ice Sampling Device, which was one of the four design challenges. NASA is currently working on ways to explore underneath the ice-covered surface of so-called “Ocean Worlds” such as Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus. According to NASA, these ice-structures may potentially be places where microbial life could thrive.
Read more: Eagles Selected to Construct New Space Tool