A "Rad" STEM Challenge for NASA's Orion Spacecraft

orion-eft1-nasa-feature

NASA and Lockheed Martin launch Exploration Design Challenge targeted at K-12 students

When astronauts travel beyond low-Earth orbit in the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle on future deep-space missions, one paramount concern will be protecting them from radiation. 

Thanks to a new partnership between NASA and Lockheed Martin, in collaboration with the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), students in grades K-12 will be able to study and design solutions to protect astronauts from space radiation.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin, along with Lockheed Martin CEO and President Marillyn Hewson, announced the Exploration Design Challenge March 11 at the NASA Johnson Space Center just outside Houston.  The challenge will allow K-12 students to examine different materials that simulate space radiation shielding for Orion, participate in teacher-guided activities and recommend the best materials to protect astronauts from radiation.

High school students can take the challenge farther by designing shielding to protect a sensor inside Orion from space radiation.  The winning design will fly aboard the Orion capsule during Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) set for September 2014.

“The Exploration Design Challenge is a tremendous opportunity for NASA and Lockheed Martin to offer students across the United States a practical, hands-on opportunity to address and solve issues related to deep-space exploration and to be connected to the Orion program and the much anticipated EFT-1 test flight,” said James H. Crocker, Lockheed Martin Space Systems vice president and general manager of Civil Space programs.  “Plus, this is taking STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) studies to another level, which is key, considering the aerospace industry’s imperative to inspire and cultivate its future workforce as current engineers and scientists approach retirement.”

Underscoring the real-world dimension of the challenge, the winning student design must meet all spaceflight safety and mission requirements prior to integration into the Orion crew vehicle.  All students that participate in the challenge will have their names flown on-board as honorary crew members.

“Space exploration has inspired and fascinated young people for generations, and the Exploration Design Challenge is a unique way to capture and engage the imaginations of tomorrow’s engineers and scientists,” said Hewson at the announcement ceremony.  “We know nothing teaches like real hands-on experience, and that’s what this program brings to a new generation of explorers.”

Melvin, himself a two-time shuttle astronaut, remarked, "Exploration Flight Test-1 is set to launch next year, so hands-on experience and involvement in this challenge will give students a real sense of being part of the NASA team during an exciting time in the history of human spaceflight. Engaging these young minds early will help build a cadre of future scientists, engineers and explorers."

Lockheed Martin is collaborating with the NIA to produce the Exploration Design Challenge and STEM engagement activites related to EFT-1.  The challenge will provide educators and students standards-based activities, print and video resources and technical guidance. 

Lockheed Martin signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to support strategic alliance for education and public outreach activities. 

rad-challenge-220

Hangout in Orion Spacecraft


highlights
  • K-12 grade students will be able to study and design solutions to protect astronauts from space radiation
  • High school students can design shielding to protect a sensor inside Orion from space radiation.  The winning design will fly aboard the Orion capsule during EFT-1, September 2014.
  • Lockheed Martin signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to support strategic alliance for education and public outreach activities.

rad-challenge--2-220