HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Jennifer Wong
Students at 'Iolani School and Kealakehe High School are going to the "moon" as part of a joint experiment organized by PISCES (Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems), in collaboration with NASA and the Google XPRIZE team.
The project, called Moon RIDERS (Research Investigating Dust Expulsion Removal Systems), get students in to the field to test dust shields for the first time on their student-built lunar landers.
"Oh, it's been great! It's really a unique opportunity to go through all of the steps of a significant research project. We run through the design phase, production, we're doing testing now and after this, we're going to be releasing a report," 'Iolani Moon Raiders Aidan Swope said, who contributes to the fabrication, computer programming and data collection of the project.
The report will be published as a joint effort by NASA, PISCES, 'Iolani and Kealakehe.
"Really, we're getting the experience going through all the steps of an actual significant test and I think that would be useful later on," Swope said.
Prototype testing will take place on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea, providing students and scientists with a simulated moon-like surface.
The partnership gives students the chance to become NASA scientists by taking their lessons from the classroom and applying them beyond.
"NASA is working with the students to solve the dust problem in space, and with NASA as their mentors, our Moon RIDERS are gaining real-world aerospace engineering experience through this collaborative STEM education project," Rob Kelso, executive director of PISCES, said.
Scientists hope that this project will eventually reduce the amount of dust in space, an issue that has caused planetary dust to pile up on solar panels and space hardware.
"We've basically been doing the tests and we've been testing all the EDS (Electrodynamic Dust Shield). We've also been taking pictures of every sequence so we know what it's looking like and what's working and what's not for dust repulsion," 'Iolani Moon RIDERS Co-President Veronica Shei said.
As part of the experiment, the students' lunar landers will touch down on the "moon" and blast high velocity air to replicate a dust plume on the moon. After that, students will deploy their EDS to see how much dust will be removed through a camera lens and the lander's foot pad.
Each time, the students change one variable and found that the project is highly dependent on the PV voltage.
"What we've really found out is that the PV voltage, readings that we've kind of engineered, is actually very important as a backup data source because sometimes enabling it is difficult or you can't really tell," Shei said. "But just from the PV voltage, you can see a really big difference if it's working properly. So I think that's really nice because you're not going to really know anything other than the PV."
Students hope that this experiment will later bring them to opportunities beyond engineering that will take them out of this world.