For release: 10/16/03
Release #: N03-010
From asteroids to astronaut gloves, summer students and faculty contribute to science at NASA research center
Not many 19-year-olds can say they've researched methods for protecting Earth from asteroids. But thanks to an internship at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, Rakia Law can make that claim. Law was one of more than 40 students and professors supporting summer research at the NSSTC, a partnership with the Marshall Center, Alabama universities and federal agencies.
Photo: Rakia Law, a sophomore at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Ala., and Dr. Jonathan Campbell, a NASA Marshall astrophysicist at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, review a model for an asteroid-orbit shaping concept for protecting the Earth. (NASA/MSFC/E. Given)
Not many 19-year-olds can say they've researched methods for protecting Earth from asteroids. But thanks to a summer internship at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, Ala., Rakia Law, a sophomore at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, can truthfully make that claim.
More than 40 students and university professors from across the nation participated in summer research programs at the research center, a partnership between NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, industry and Alabama's research universities. While Law studied asteroids, other visiting researchers tackled projects ranging from meteorological research to improving astronaut gloves.
Law's experience is part of NASA's Equal Opportunity Summer Scholars Internship Program, which pairs minority and disabled college students with NASA researchers and engineers as mentors. Through the Minorities in Science and Engineering Program, she spent 10 weeks working with Dr. Jonathan W. Campbell, a NASA astrophysicist and space scientist who researches advanced projects, technologies and concepts for future NASA missions at the National Space Science and Technology Center.
Among these projects is protecting Earth from asteroids and other space-borne objects. "There's a significant number of asteroids that may pose a potential danger to Earth," Law said. "I spent the summer researching these objects and exploring methods -- such as deflecting them with lasers -- to prevent them from impacting our planet."
Another summer researcher, Patrick V. Hull, focused on friction modification. A doctorate student from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, he used a prototype miniature actuator, a mechanical device about the size of a dime, to change the surface roughness of a wide array of materials. Then, he determined which surfaces have better gripping abilities.
"A potential benefit of this research," Hull said, "is the possibility it could help improve materials used for astronaut gloves -- and eventually give astronauts a better grip during Extra Vehicular Activities, more commonly called space walks."
Hull, who has bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from Tennessee Technology University, believes the most beneficial part of his summer experience is interacting with scientists who perform groundbreaking research every day. "This has given me the chance to work with some very creative and strong technically minded people here at NASA," he said.
The summer research is supported by programs ranging from NASA education initiatives such as the Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program and NASA Faculty Fellowship program to Universities Space Research Association internships and other programs sponsored by Alabama research universities.
Focusing on space science, earth science, materials science, biotechnology, propulsion, information technology and advanced optics and energy technology, collaboration at the NSSTC enables scientists, engineers and educators to share research and other facilities.
More information on the National Space Science and Technology Center is available at:
The NSSTC is a cooperative venture of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama A & M University, Auburn University, Tuskegee University, The University of Alabama, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, and The University of South Alabama.
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