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Forum:Exploration: Asteroids, Moon and Mars
Topic:[Orion EFT-1] NASA Exploration Design Challenge
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Robert PearlmanNASA release
High School 'Final Five' Compete for Out-of-This-World Test on Orion

Five teams of high school student engineers have made it to the final round in a competition to build and test designs for radiation shields for NASA's new Orion spacecraft.

The competition is part of the Exploration Design Challenge (EDC), developed by NASA and Lockheed Martin, with support from the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA).

Forty-six teams submitted engineering notebooks with proposed radiation shield designs. After review by Orion engineers, as well as NASA and NIA educators, the five teams selected to move on to the next phase of the competition are:

  • Team Titan Shielding Systems of Illinois Math and Science Academy, Aurora, Ill.
  • Team ARES of Governor's School for Science and Technology, Hampton, Va.
  • Team Aegis of Herriman High School, Herriman, Utah
  • Team Erion of Erie High School, Erie, Kan.
  • Team LORE of Summit View High School, North Hollywood, Calif.
The high school teams were asked to design shielding to protect a radiation detector on Orion as it flies through the Van Allen Belt, a dense radiation field that surrounds the Earth. Because the belt begins 600 miles above Earth, no spacecraft built for humans has flown through it in more than 40 years. Orion, which will travel to an altitude of about 3,600 miles on its first flight test, will spend a significant portion of its four-hour mission exposed to the effects of the Van Allen Belt.

For the next phase of the competition, the final five teams will build prototypes of their designs, which will be tested by engineers at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., before the winning design is chosen.

The winning team will be announced in April, and their design will be launched into space on Orion later this year. This uncrewed mission, designated Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), will be the first spaceflight test of the capsule that will one day carry astronauts to an asteroid and Mars.

NASA, the NIA and Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the Orion program, unveiled the Exploration Design Challenge on March 11, 2013, to give students from kindergarten through 12th grade the opportunity to play a unique role in the future of human spaceflight. The challenge encourages students in the U.S. and abroad to think and act like scientists and engineers to overcome one of the major hurdles for deep space long-duration exploration: protecting astronauts and hardware from the dangers of space radiation.

More than 125,000 students of all ages, from 81 countries around the world, have taken part in the challenge so far. Although the deadline has passed to take part in the high school competition, students in grades K-12 still have until June 30 to participate in other Exploration Design Challenge activities to have their name flown on board Orion.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
High School Students Create Winning Design for NASA's First Flight of Orion

After a year-long competition among high school teams across the country, evaluators from NASA, Lockheed Martin and the National Institute of Aerospace have selected Team ARES, from the Governor's School for Science and Technology in Hampton, Va., as the winner of the high school portion of the Exploration Design Challenge (EDC).

The announcement Friday came during a ceremony held at the opening of the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington. Team ARES was chosen from a group of five finalist teams announced in March.

Above: NASA’s Administrator, Charles Bolden (left), President/CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson (right), and astronaut Rex Walheim (back row) pose for a group photo with the winning high school team in the Exploration Design Challenge. Team ARES from the Governors School for Science and Technology in Hampton, Va. won the challenge with their radiation shield design, which will be built and flown aboard the Orion/EFT-1. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The EDC was developed to engage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by inviting them to help tackle one of the most significant dangers of human space flight -- radiation exposure.

"This is a great day for Team ARES – you have done a remarkable job," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who helped announce the winning team. He continued, "I really want to congratulate all of our finalists. You are outstanding examples of the power of American innovation. Your passion for discovery and the creative ideas you have brought forward have made us think and have helped us take a fresh look at a very challenging problem on our path to Mars."

Team ARES now will work with the NASA and Lockheed Martin spacecraft integration team to have the product of their experimental design approved for spaceflight. Once the equipment is approved, engineers will install it onto Orion's crew module. Later this year, when Orion launches into orbit during Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), Lockheed Martin will host Team ARES at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch their experiment launch into space.

During the EFT-1, Orion will fly through the Van Allen Belt, a dense radiation field that surrounds the Earth in a protective shell of electrically charged ions. Understanding and mitigating radiation exposure during Orion's flight test can help scientists develop protective solutions before the first crewed mission. After EFT-1, the students will receive data indicating how well their design protected a dosimeter, an instrument used for measuring radiation exposure.

Speaking at the U.S.A Science and Engineering Festival, Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson said, "The Exploration Design Challenge has already reached 127,000 students worldwide – engaging them in real-world engineering challenges and igniting their imaginations about the endless possibilities of space discovery."

Students around the world in grades K-12 still can be part of Orion's first flight by completing an online radiation shielding activity. Students who complete the activity by June 30 will have their names flown as virtual crew members aboard Orion.

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