Published : Saturday, March 30, 2019 | 5:00 AM
In the 1960s there was the Space Race, when the U.S. competed with Russia in putting a man into space and onto the surface of the moon.
Today at Caltech started another era in space innovation: The Space Challenge, for which 32 of the world’s smartest science student minds have devised a way to get to explore Saturn’s moon.
But instead of competing against one another, they’re working together.
For the sake of the Space Challenge however, two teams of 16 each were created — Team Voyager and Team Explorer — to create the ultimate plan to get us to Enceladus, the most possibly life-sustaining moon of the nine around Saturn.
“There are two goals here,” said Fabien Royer. “The students must convey passion for space to the next generation. Two, we can afford to think about ideas that are bolder and end the end of the week, think long-term.”
The 32 science-based engineers, project managers and designers come from all over the world, with the most from North America, and including two who attend Caltech.
It’s been determined that Enceladus could be the most able from among all nine of Saturn’s nine moons, to actually host human life.
“This moon has a global ocean and the ocean is in contact with rocks similar to ones on Earth,” Royer said.
The most important thing about this display of brainy engineers, designers and project managers is they are showing industry and academia the future.
“Aerospace organizations are looking for brilliant new talent,” said Lawren Markle of Innovate Pasadena. “They look at solutions developed by space chase teams not for practical ways to get to Saturn, but to see who are the great new hires. They want to find people who are brilliand and who can work in teams. Those skill sets are important to solve real-world engineering and design challenges.”
From among 64 countries, the Caltech Space Challenge received 567 applications from 264 Universities. From the 32 people 47 percent are from North America, 34 percent are from Europe, 9 percent are from South America and 9 percent are from Asia. Half are men and half are women.
For the last week, two rooms where the teams have been working diligently aren’t exactly tidy as plans, schemes and ideas are launching.
“They’ve been in two rooms developing their mission content,” Royer said. “You enter one of the rooms it’s a big mess, like Post-Its everywhere and on the wall, with crazy drawings on the board. Five days is a short time. They’re writing a report and giving a final presentation.”
There are two parts to the competition, with the first part comprised of the launch of a spacecraft to take from Earth to space and then creating a platform with instruments to take measurements and cruise through the Solar System.
For the 32 students, what lies ahead is being able to use the experience for pursuit of the PhD, publishing of findings in scholarly journals and even possibly a job at a prestigious organization.
And while a six-person jury does have to decide which presentation is actually more feasible, the winners are all already on hand.
“There really isn’t only one winner,” Royer said. “To be selected for the Space Challenge really means you’re already a winner.”