NASA and Blue Origin Help Classrooms and Researchers Reach Space - Jaime Bonetti Zeller

NASA and Blue Origin Help Classrooms and Researchers Reach Space

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“We are now on the verge of giving students and teachers the ability to build and fly affordable experiments in space. When teachers are this excited about putting experiments in space, their students can’t help but get excited about space, too.”

Elizabeth Kennick, president of Teachers in Space, does not take the opportunity to fly an experiment to space for granted. The nonprofit organization has worked with educators and engineers to design and test standard equipment for classroom-developed experiments, including 3D-printed frames, customizable processors, power adaptors and more. The equipment first flew on high-altitude balloons and more recently on a stratospheric glider. Now, thanks to support from NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, the equipment will fly higher than ever before: to space on the next launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

Nine NASA-supported payloads are expected to ride on New Shepard, targeting liftoff from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site no earlier than May 2 at 9:30 a.m. EDT. Blue Origin’s live launch webcast will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

“It’s such a huge milestone,” said Kennick. “This opens the door to flying more experiments for more schools, and that means exposing more teachers and students to the promise of spaceflight.”

That promise is bolstered by Flight Opportunities, which lets researchers test technologies in a relevant environment—particularly innovations that will help NASA return to the Moon and send crewed missions to Mars.

The payloads will experience the rigors of a rocket launch and the challenges of a zero-gravity environment. These conditions will give researchers valuable insights into how their technologies would hold up on exploration missions.

A 3D printing experiment from the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville could further advance in space manufacturing—a critical capability for long-term stays on the lunar surface. While there are 3D printers on the International Space Station, the university’s experiment, if successful, would provide the capability to manufacture metal components in space.

Future explorers will need protection from potentially negative effects of deep space travel. With a new suborbital centrifuge from NanoRacks, researchers may be able to collect biological and physical data on suborbital rocket flights. A space-based centrifuge can simulate the gravity environment on the Moon or Mars. The capability could make it faster and cheaper to gather critical data.

Missions to the Moon and the Red Planet will also require advanced fuel gauging systems— giving accurate measurements of the amount of propellant onboard vehicles operating in deep space without the need for complex procedures. A propellant gauging experiment from Purdue University aims to do just that.

About Jaime Bonetti Zeller

Jaime Bonetti Zeller is an investment professional and entrepreneur with businesses in multiple industries. He is president of Servicios Consulares Eurodom, the local partner in the Caribbean region for VFS Global, a leader global outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide. Jaime Bonetti Zeller also started the company Sofratesa de Panama inc., an organization in the engineering services industry located in Panama City.