The following description of the Micro-g NeXT project was written by project lead, Mary Ben Apatoff, in an email sent to YUAA members on June 22, 2020:
Humans will return to the moon via the Artemis program, a crewed spaceflight program which plans to land on the lunar south pole by 2024. The last time humans were on the moon was in 1972 using Apollo era tools for lunar operations. Today, we need innovative new technologies and systems to explore more of the moon. This is the focus of our project. We will take part in NASA’s Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams (Micro-g NExT) challenge, which is part of NASA’s Artemis Student Challenges program. In the challenge, undergraduates propose, design, build, and test a tool or device that addresses an “authentic, current space exploration challenge.” NASA engineers identify a tool necessary in space exploration missions, and teams design and prototype a device that fits the function NASA identified. Test operations occur at the NASA Johnson Space Center Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in a simulated microgravity environment (i.e. in a 6.2-million-gallon pool), and professional NBL divers test our tools while we direct the divers from the Test Conductor Room within the NBL facility. Please check back in late August for a detailed description of the specific lunar challenge we will tackle in the 2020-21 school year!
This project provides members with a unique opportunity to contribute to the Artemis mission while developing our skills in design, engineering, and testing a final product. Members will work through the design and build process and will gain experience in designing, prototyping, testing, and iterating. All members will learn throughout the year—anyone interested is welcome to join!