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CHS Lunar Landing Team at NASA
ExMASS students at NASAThe science research team of Karen, Delina, and Pragati took first place in the Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students (ExMASS) Competition, and were invited to present their research at the NASA Exploration Science Forum in California in July. The students, along with Director of Science, Dr. Alison Offerman-Celentano, met NASA scientists, researchers, and astronauts.

Their research project “Mapping Possible Locations for Lunar Ice Mining Using Topographic, Economic, and Elemental Data,” determined feasible locations to mine lunar H2O ice. It was observed that the highest concentrations of hydrogen and oxygen were located at the lunar poles. Seven appropriate areas were pinpointed between the North and South Poles on the moon, and determined to be the most feasible to mine. Using data from lunar missions, the trio used ArcGIS software to map the data, and did a cost/benefit analysis to determine the best type of rocket and landing areas to mine lunar ice. The students were assisted by research mentors Dr. Tabb C. Prissel from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers University and Dr. Jennifer Whitten from the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

On Day 1 of the NASA Forum, our science researchers (who were the only high school students in attendance) attended talks from premier scientists in the planetary science fields including former astronaut, former US Senator, and current research geologist Jack Schmitt, who walked on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission. The students gave their lightening round presentation, which was continually lauded throughout the conference as one of, if not, the best, to entice the attending research scientists to visit their poster. They received a steady stream of visitors during the poster session and our three students spoke confidently about their research, answered questions, and were able to engage with professional scientists about their college and career aspirations. On Day 2 of the NASA Forum, we were honored with a behind-the-scenes tour of the NASA Ames Research Facility, one of the oldest and most diverse government facilities in our country. The students visited with New Horizons Mission scientist Dr. Oliver White to learn about the amazing discoveries emerging from the data sent back from our closest investigation of our dwarf planet. Another honor was meeting former astronaut Karol Bobko who gave us a tour of the Flight Simulation Laboratory. Visiting the Intelligent Robotics Lab gave students a chance to see The Astrobee prototype, a robot that will be operating on the ISS by the end of this year to help astronauts with daily tasks. We also learned about aerodynamic engineering research taking place in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel and the DIY makerspace open to all in the Space Shop. After attending a panel discussion about water on the moon, our students again received many professional scientists at their poster to share their research. Our students were also awarded an honorable mention in the poster competition!

"The best part of the experience was being able to interact with professional scientists and being treated like equals. Getting out of the high school environment to see what type of research is actually happening in the field was uniquely rewarding," remarked Delina and Pragati  on the flight back to New York.

Director of Science, Dr. Alison Offerman-Celentano, accompanied the students to California. "This was an incredible opportunity for our rising juniors and one of the best prizes I could envision for placing first in a national competition. During no other time would students of this young age have the opportunity to not only attend a professional conference but to actively engage with researchers and graduate students. They made valuable contacts and learned tremendous life lessons in the areas of public speaking and professional networking. I could not be prouder of their maturity, poise, and genuine interest throughout the two days of the conference."

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