East Hawaii News

Kealakehe Students Test Lunar Landers

March 17, 2015, 12:02 PM HST
* Updated March 17, 12:04 PM
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A week of field testing has begun for the Kealakehe High School and ‘Iolani School students who are participating in the dust shield experiment collaboratively organized by Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems through a partnership with NASA and a Google XPRIZE team.

Students were invited to participate in the STEM project, being called  Moon RIDERS, Research Investigating Dust Expulsion Removal, a project that would include building and flying a dust shield experiment to the moon.

The dust shields of student-built lunar landers are being tested on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea at the PISCES Planetary Analogue Test Site.

These mock lunar landers will give students the chance to experience what it is like to be a NASA scientist first-hand. During the test, the lunar landers will be lifted and then touch down. During the touch down, a blast of high-velocity air will simulate what an actual lander would experience if landing on the moon, kicking up a dust plume.

Once the lunar landers touch down, the electrodynamic dust shield prototype will be powered up to test how well dust can be removed from a camera lens and the lunar lander’s foot pad. The process will be repeated, as a variety of variables are changed each time to gain a better understanding of what could potentially work in different situations.

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“We are excited to have the students at ‘Iolani and Kealakehe join us on Mauna Kea for the first round of tests of the prototype dust shields,” said Rob Kelso, executive director of PISCES. “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.”

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After years of NASA research and development, the dust shield experiment was created. The technology allows for planetary dust to be repelled and removed by using a high voltage, low current device. Although the technology has been tested on earth and in low gravity flights, it has never been tested in space or on the Moon. The Kealakehe and ‘Iolani students will be part of the first lunar experiment.

Kealakehe Students will test the technology on Saturday, March 21 while ‘Iolani student experiments got underway Tuesday morning.

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