A team of five student engineers developed plans for a massive
inflatable heat shield designed to protect spacecraft—and
potentially astronauts—from the white-hot heat that objects
encounter upon entering Mars' atmosphere.
The team’s work impressed NASA and partner organization,
the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), which called upon
college students nationwide to submit proposals for a contest
called the Breakthrough, Innovate, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea
Contest organizers asked the teams to develop plans for a
heatshield much larger than what NASA recently used to land the
rover Curiosity on Mars. The contest dovetails with NASA’s
ongoing efforts to develop a new class of heatshields to carry
vehicles that weigh up to 30 tons to Mars.
UB's was among the four top plans chosen by NASA and NIA, along
with Georgia Tech, Purdue University and the University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign. The teams presented their plans to a panel of
judges at NASA’s Langley Research Center.
“To have NASA and the NIA evaluate our plan is really an
honor,” said Henry Kwan, a senior mechanical engineering
major who helped create the plan.
Other team members were seniors Levi Li and Samuel Tedesco, and
Anish Kumar and Anibal Martinez, who graduated in 2015. Kemper
Lewis, professor and chair, was the team’s faculty advisor.
All are from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace