East Hawaii News

PISCES Receives $35K in Grants for Moon RIDERS Program

July 21, 2015, 2:29 PM HST
* Updated July 21, 2:40 PM
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A $25,000 grant has been awarded for the Moon RIDERS (Research Investigating Dust Expulsion Removal Systems) program of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems.

The money is from the County of Hawai’i Department of Research and Development’s economic development initiative with aims of creating more high tech jobs in Hawai’i.

Moon RIDERS is a partnership between PISCES, NASA, and two Hawai’i high schools, including Kealakehe. The project allows students to build their own lunar experiment on the surface of the moon, set to launch in 2017.

PISCES role in the project goes beyond the lunar exploration. The project aims to cultivate 21st century workforce skills, while inspiring local students in STEM fields and advance technology used in space exploration.

“The County of Hawai’i supports many initiatives around building a 21st century workforce so that our children can participate in the groundbreaking science happening right here,” Jane Horike, Economic Development Specialist for the Department of Research and Development said. “Moon RIDERS offered a unique opportunity to work on a real NASA project. Beyond all the benefits of supporting STEM in our schools, the excitement of this project will change the lives of these students forever.”

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Students involved in the project that began in fall 2014 include a total of about 70 individuals from ‘Iolani School in Honolulu and Kealakehe High School in Kailua-Kona. The students have built mock-lunar landers and added NASA-built technology called an “Electrodynamic Dust Shield,” or “EDS.”

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EDS technology is important because the fine planetary dust can be harmful and corrosive to equipment like space suits and solar panels. The technology aims to expel the dust on places like the Moon and Mars.

This past March, PISCES oversaw the first field test for the project.

An additional $10,000 THINK Fund grant was received by PISCES for the project from the Hawai’i Community Foundation. The THINK Fund aims to establish STEM education opportunities for students in Hawai’i so they can learn high-tech job skills.

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“PISCES greatly appreciates the recently awarded grants from both the County of Hawai’i and Hawai’i Community Foundation,” said PISCES Executive Director Rob Kelso. “The award supports an unprecedented opportunity for Hawai’i’s students, the state, and the greater endeavor of space exploration.”

Funds received through the grants will allow Moon RIDERS to configure and integrate NASA’s EDS hardware into a lunar lander, according to PISCES officials. The experiment is slated to take flight to the Moon on a Google Lunar XPRIZE team’s spacecraft in 2017.

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