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Space Mission Review: Stanford Freshmen Pitch their Space Missions to NASA

By Simone D'Amico   Jan. 3, 2018


Group photo at final exam of "How to Design a Space Mission". Stanford undergraduate students (back), review board from NASA and Impacted Learning (front).

On December 13, 2017, the final exam of Prof. D'Amico's freshman seminar "How to Design a Space Mission: from Concept to Execution" mimicked a space mission design review. The review board was led by Chad Frost, Deputy Director of Engineering at NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), and included a total of 7 members: David Mauro (ARC), Eddie Uribe (ARC), Daniel Larrabee (ARC), Austin Halbert (Impacted Learning), Simone D'Amico, and Anjali Roychowdhury (Course Development Assistant). Four teams of undergraduate students documented and presented their original space mission concepts:

IMMUNE: Intelligent Magnetospheric Mapping and Understanding Network Edification

TTAB: Tracking Terrestrial & Aquatic Biodiversity

MITOSIS: Mapping and Tracking of Space Debris

CUBE-RICK: CubeSat Unfurling Binary Experiment for Rotational Interplanetary Colonization & Knowledge

After the presentations, the review board assessed the mission designs in terms of challenge focus, objectives, system design, project lifecycle, and potential for impact. Consensus was that the output of the undergraduate students, mostly freshmen, went a way beyond the expectations from such young students without technical background. Although the quality of the projects was very similar, IMMUNE was finally selected as best design, and recommended for an excellence award to be given by the Stanford's Introductory Seminar organization.

IMMUNE is intended to map the magnetic field and magnetosphere of our home, providing critical data on field strength and direction at all positions around the Earth. Ultimately, this data will be processed using Artificial Intelligence algorithms designed to recognize patterns and effects of field strength fluctuations, enabling accurate predictions of magnetospheric cracking and weakening events in the future.

Prof. Juan Alonso, Director of the Aero/Astro undergraduate program at Stanford, attended the final exam and said that "the final presentations from your students in the IntroSem this quarter were just outstanding: it is easy to forget how young these kids are and the fact that they have only been at this for the past 8-9 weeks! [...] it was a wonderful idea to invite a panel of NASA people and I am sure the students must have enjoyed and learned a lot from the experience."


Simone D'Amico teaches the Stanford's freshman seminar "How to Design a Space Mission: from Concept to Execution";