NEWS BRIEF: GW team wins Mars design competition

Four GW students may help humans reach the surface of Mars after they won NASA’s 2001 MarsPort Engineering Design Competition May 8.

Engineers will consider the winning storage facility design of the annual nationwide competition when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans a manned mission to Mars, said Bob Tolson, faculty adviser for the project.

The team won about $2,000 for their design, created at GW’s Joint Institute for the Advancement of Flight Sciences in Hampton, Va.

Graduate students Paul Escalera, Alicia Dwyer, Jill Hanna and Corey Hernandez and faculty advisers Tolson and Paul Cooper designed the storage unit. It is designed to work with the NASA’s MarsPort Cryogenics and Consumables Station to produce oxygen, water and methane using the red planet’s atmosphere.

The oxygen, water, methane and other gases will be used for consumption and propellants to return astronauts from Mars to Earth. Astronauts will only be sent to Mars once the MCCS is determined to be functional and a suitable amount of gas and water have been stored. The storage facility will minimize launch mass for a mission from Earth, Escalera said.

NASA proposes a different problem for student teams to tackle each year, Tolson said.

“This is a cheap way for NASA to get lots of good ideas,” he said.
In December, GW advanced to the final stage of the competition with Cornell University, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University,

Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

The team, which began working on the project in October, won first prize at a conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“This was an opportunity to bring all courses and subjects together to one concept,” Escalera said. “This involved many aspects of engineering, thermodynamics, chemistry, physics . you name it, it was in there.”

The JIAFS is located at the NASA-Langley Research Center in Virginia and offers graduate courses in engineering.

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