Hawaii students collaborate with NASA on moon experiment

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Students from Iolani School on Oahu and Kealakehe High School on Hawaii island have been invited to participate in a project to fly a dust shield experiment to the moon.

Spearheaded by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), the project will be a collaborative effort with NASA, a Google XPRIZE team and Hawaii students to build and operate this experiment on the surface of the moon by the end of 2016.

The experiment involves electrodynamic dust shield technology and the selected Hawaii students will be mentored by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The project came about through an agreement with PISCES and NASA to work on a Hawaii high school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project.

At a dual-island press conference Friday, Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent Kathy Matayoshi called the recognition of a student lunar flight experiment a “chicken-skin moment.”

“One of the things that this project exemplifies is that science is fascinating to students when they can do it,” she said,  “not necessarily when they just read it on a book. You’ve got to see it, feel it, and be able to work with it, and then it comes alive.  And I think that’s what this experiment does,” said Matayoshi.

The dust shield experiment is the culmination of many years of NASA research and development. The technology repels and removes planetary dust, which collects on surfaces like solar panels and space hardware, by using a high voltage, low current device. This technology has been tested extensively on earth, and even in low-gravity flights, but has not yet been tested in space or on the Moon.

Students will be running their first series of pre-flight testing for the experiment beginning in March in preparation for the anticipated late 2016 launch date.  The tests will be conducted at a PISCES planetary analogue test site on Hawaii Island.

PISCES is a Hilo-based Hawaii state government aerospace agency, placed under the State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism. The Center develops and tests planetary surface system technologies for use on the Moon and Mars, and tests these systems on Hawaii’s volcanic terrain under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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