We are excited to announce that MNA was recently contracted to complete the external evaluation of the Phase II NASA-funded MIRO grant awarded to the University of Arizona.
As part of an array of space-based research, researchers at the UA are contributing to a $3 million project that uses mini-laboratories in space to study surface conditions of asteroids. Dr. Jekan Thanga, the PI and Assistant Professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering and head of the SpaceTREx Laboratory(link is external), is leading this three-year project, which began in 2019-2020 and is funded by NASA’s Institutional Research Opportunity program under the MUREP, the NASA Minority University Research and Education Project, or MIRO.
The central mission of the project aptly named ‘ASTEROIDS’ or Asteroid Science, Technology, and Exploration Research Organized by the Inclusive Education Systems is to develop asteroids origins satellites or AOSATS — small CubeSat laboratories that operate in low-Earth orbit and contain asteroid material, which came to Earth in the form of meteorites.
The grant will develop the ASTEROIDS Center at the University of Arizona. The center will be dedicated to performing fundamental science and technology research (identified as a high priority in the planetary science decadal survey and NASA Strategic Plan 2018, Section 1.10) intended for asteroid exploration.
One of the core programs of ASTEROIDS is the Undergraduate Research and Education Program (UREP). The team will select nearly 60 students for the program per year. The students would first take 6-weeks of accelerated summer classes centered on space systems engineering, planetary science, propulsion, and ISRU. They then expect nearly 30 students to continue writing an abstract on a research topic and working with a faculty member performing fundamental research for a year. Graduate students will be part of the program as they will be providing day-to-day leadership and mentoring the undergraduates.
Exciting times ahead!