High School Students Begin Moon Mission Testing


‘Iolani School and Kealakehe High School students began a week of field testing through a simulated mission on the surface of the “Moon” to test dust shields on their student-built lunar landers. As part of the recently-announced collaborative experiment organized by Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) in partnership with NASA and a Google XPRIZE team, the schools were invited to participate in a project to build and fly a dust shield experiment to the moon. This STEM project, called Moon RIDERS (Research Investigating Dust Expulsion Removal Systems), allows students to build and deliver an experiment to the surface of the moon – a feat that, to our knowledge, has never been accomplished before.
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Testing will take place on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea at the PISCES Planetary Analogue Test Site, allowing students a unique opportunity to experience being a NASA scientist first-hand. Mock lunar landers constructed by ‘Iolani and Kealakehe students will be lifted, then touch down, at which time a gas cylinder will blast high-velocity air to simulate the dust plume kicked up by a lunar lander on the moon. Upon touching down, students will power up their electrodynamic dust shield prototype to determine how well it removes dust from a camera lens and the foot pad of their lunar lander. Students will repeat the process, changing variables each time, to help determine what works best under different dust conditions.

“We are excited to have the students at ‘Iolani and Kealakehe join us on Mauna Kea for the first round of tests of the prototype dust shields,” said Rob Kelso, executive director of PISCES. “NASA is working with the students to solve the dust problem in space, and with NASA as their mentors, our Moon RIDERS are gaining real-world aerospace engineering experience through this collaborative STEM education project.”

The dust shield experiment is the culmination of many years of NASA research and development. The technology repels and removes planetary dust, which collects on surfaces like solar panels and space hardware, by using a high voltage, low current device. This technology has been tested extensively on earth, and even in low gravity flights, but has not yet been tested in space or on the Moon.

PISCES is a Hilo-based Hawaii state government aerospace agency, placed under the State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT). The Center develops and tests planetary surface system technologies for use on the Moon and Mars, and tests these systems on Hawaii’s volcanic terrain under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

Established in 1997, Kealakehe High serves about 1,600 students living in diverse communities spanning 50 miles in West Hawaii. As the largest public high school on Hawaii Island, Kealakehe High places a strong emphasis on citizenship and has identified three main values: building relationships, showing respect, and being responsible to self and the community.

Founded in 1863 by King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, ‘Iolani School is situated on a 25-acre campus and serves more than 1,880 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. A culturally diverse, co-educational, college preparatory school with approximately 306 full-time faculty and staff, ‘Iolani is rated among the best independent schools in the country for its academic, arts and athletics programs.

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