A group of seven current and former University of
The launch, funded in part by an
Amateur-initiated space programs are becoming more common, and more desperately needed, according to
The purpose of the Mavericks, which is also supporting the project, is to instill passion for space exploration among young people by helping them to build their own spacecrafts, he said.
This particular rocket launch is special, Atchison said.
"It's one of the first ones I've seen that's actually been built and designed by undergraduate engineering students," he said.
Much is riding on the success of the rocket's test flight, which will take place next week, when the weather is optimal, from a site in Black Rock, Nev., a remote section of the desert where a launching pad is used to send up rockets on a regular basis.
If the student design proves successful, it will make a small but meaningful contribution to the future of life on Earth -- as well as answer questions about its deep past.
The students' design will also serve as a model for hundreds of smaller rockets, built in classrooms around the country, said Atchison, who founded the Mavericks in 2002.
Ostromecky was already a confirmed rocket enthusiast, a personal passion that dated back to when he was 7 and flew his first model rocket.
"When I saw it go off, I wanted to do it again," he said. "I wanted to do it bigger. I wanted to make it better."
Now, Ostromecky is the only team member who is still a student. The others,
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