News Column

UTEP Students Tapped to Test Lunar Dust Device

July 9, 2014

Alex Hinojosa, El Paso Times

Full moon (file image)
Full moon (file image)

July 09--NASA has selected a group of UTEP students to test their lunar dust cleaning device intended to remove hazardous particles that can cause serious problems for astronauts.

Sergio Cordova, Miriam Perez, Gabriel Garay, Edgardo Flores and Sara Soto will test the cleaning device they developed aboard NASA's micro-gravity aircraft on Thursday and Friday as part of NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Only 13 other teams of U.S. college students were selected to test their science experiments aboard the micro-gravity aircraft, which will produce periods of weightlessness for up to 25 seconds.

The aircraft is used by NASA scientists, engineers and researchers to test space-flight hardware, flight procedures and spacecraft components. After the teams evaluate their findings, they will provide their results to NASA.

"I think it's a great opportunity to interact with other professionals, especially engineers from NASA," Flores said. "It gives us the opportunity to expand our work as well."

Unlike regular dust, the texture of lunar dust is very sharp and can be harmful.

According to NASA, lunar dust is often contaminated with ultraviolet radiation and has a high iron content, and can be harmful if it is inhaled. The dust also has an electrostatic charge so it clings to any surface it touches, which makes it difficult to remove from space suits. Soto said the device, which was Cordova's idea, takes advantage of the magnetic charge lunar dust has, so that it can be easily removed.

"It's an awesome opportunity," Soto said. "We haven't tried it in zero gravity and I don't know how effective it will be. Hopefully, they (NASA) can take our findings and expand on them and use our information."

As the students developed the device, they were overseen by University of Texas at El Paso mechanical engineering professor and project advisor Evgeny Shafirovich. This is the sixth time that UTEP students have participated in the program under the advisement of Shafirovich.

Prior to teaching at UTEP, Shafirovich conducted research at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Shafirovich's strong background in research helped the students generate and develop the idea. Whether the students' device will expand NASA's research remains to be seen, Shafirovich said.

"The main idea is to excite the students and increase their interest in engineering and space," Shafirovich said.

Alex Hinojosa may be reached at 546-6137.

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(c)2014 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: NASA selects UTEP students to test lunar dust device in zero gravity



Source: (c)2014 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)


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