Thursday, September 8, 2011
Two spacecraft headed to the moon Friday, Sept. 9, are carrying a battery of digital cameras manned by a team of students at UC San Diego, including undergraduates from the Jacobs School of Engineering.
Operating from their ground station at UC San Diego, the undergraduates will take requests from middle school classrooms across the nation and aim the cameras at areas of the moon the middle schoolers want to photograph. The images will be available on the MoonKam website, where students can learn more about lunar features and possible landing sites for future missions. The MoonKam program is led by Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly into space and a physics professor at UCSD.
MoonKam is hitching a ride on GRAIL A and B, two spacecraft designed to study the gravity of the earth’s satellite. The two crafts are set to reach orbit in 2012. Their mission will last approximately 80 days.
Veronica Wu, a mechanical and aerospace engineering student, is the team lead of the Orbits team for MoonKAM. The team uses software to determine which areas of the moon can be photographed based on the spacecraft’s orbits.
Wu became interested in outer space and space shuttles in fifth-grade. She decided to study engineering in hopes of conducting research on spacecraft and space exploration. She now plans to earn a master’s and doctorate in astronautics engineering and narrowed her research interests to human space flight and planetary rovers.
By the way, if you want to watch the launch of the two GRAIL spacecraft on NASA TV, you’ll have to wake up early. The launch window opens at 8:33:25 a.m. and 9:12:31 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
Photo: Courtesy of NASA