Lunar Research with NASA & SpaceX Hyperloop Competition

By Elisha Jhoti

Thanks to the Go Abroad fund I was able to travel to Houston in the US to take part in the Lunar & Planetary Institute (LPI)/NASA Summer Intern Program, and travel to Los Angeles with The University of Edinburgh Hyperloop Team, HYPED, and compete in the SpaceX Hyperloop Competition 2018.

Being given the chance to come to Houston to carry out a research project in planetary science was incredible. My project involved using NASA’s LAMP (Lyman Alpha Mapping Project) instrument orbiting the Moon, a far-UV spectrograph, to look at cold spots and impact craters. The insight that I gained this summer into the way NASA research is carried out has set me up to pursue my career goals of one day working there, as well as improving my skills as a scientist, aiding me enormously as I plan to pursue a PhD in the field.

The program took us on tours at NASA Johnson Space Centre. This was a dream come true for me, I have always dreamt of working for NASA but getting to be there and experience the innovation and passion first hand was once in a lifetime, especially as a non-US citizen. We were lucky enough to visit the Robotics Laboratory where we met Robonaut who helps astronauts on-board the International Space Station (ISS); the Space Vehicle Mock-Up Facility that has exact replicas of ISS modules that astronauts use to train on, as well as the meteorite laboratory where we saw space rocks recovered from Antarctica. We also saw the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, which houses a huge swimming pool with another mock-up of the ISS for astronauts to train underwater in, simulating microgravity. And finally we got to see and climb about in the Lunar Electric Rover and Space Exploration Vehicle, which are NASA’s prototypes for their upcoming manned Moon missions.

Travelling from NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston to SpaceX in LA in the same week really made me feel like I was in a dream. I am so grateful that I was able to represent HYPED at SpaceX’s Hyperloop Competition Final. Hyperloop is Elon Musk’s new transport concept. Our team was the only UK team and one of the 20 finalists chosen to come to California. After rigorous tests by SpaceX engineers we came out as one of the top 6 teams in the world. Unfortunately, we did not get to test our pod in SpaceX’s Hyperloop tube due to electronic issues; only the top three teams got this chance. However, the highlight was definitely meeting Elon Musk. He came to see each of the top 6 teams’ Hyperloop pods and was impressed with our use of novel technologies, such as our carbon fibre pressure vessel and magnetic propulsion.

Having experience abroad, no matter what you decide to do, is definitely one of the best things you can do at university. It really helps you develop as a person and get out of your comfort zone, because only then will you truly be challenged.

Photo credit: Lunar and Planetary Institute

Categories: Go Abroad Fund, North America, USA

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