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Students Compete in NASA/NIA Moon Design Competition

In a recent aerospace design competition college students came up with ideas that included orbiting "gas" stations and flying "sports cars" to help astronauts get to the moon and explore the surface. Students from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and the University of Maryland in College Park took first place honors in the 2009 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage or RASC-AL contest sponsored by NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA). The teams presented their work at a forum in Cocoa Beach, FL.

The competition challenged teams competing in separate graduate and undergraduate divisions to consider conditions astronauts will face when humans return to the Moon and then to design projects that could become part of real lunar exploration.

"Contests like RASC-AL expose students to the real technical challenges that they as young engineers may face as we go back to the Moon for the first time in 40 years," said Pat Troutman, senior systems analyst at NASA's Langley Research Center. "From the work we've seen, these students are up to the challenge."

In the graduate division a team of Georgia Tech and North Carolina State University students studying at NIA won first place for its project, "Reusable Lunar Transportation Architecture Utilizing Orbital Propellant Depots." First place for the undergraduate division went to the University of Maryland for its project, "Project ASHLAIN: A Lunar Flying Vehicle for Rapid Universal Surface Access."

An independent panel of space exploration experts drawn from NASA, industry, and the academic community judged the entries. Teams scored points based on their final paper, oral presentations, outreach service, and technicality and real-life concepts of the project.

Over the course of the forum, students toured NASA's Kennedy Space Center, listened in on their peers' oral presentations, and had the opportunity to network with one another and industry experts.

"Through the interaction with professionals during the RASC-AL Forum, students received practical feedback on their concepts," said Bernard Grossman, NIA's VP for education and outreach. "As a result, they are better prepared to join the aerospace workforce."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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