Students from the University of Leicester Physics and Astronomy Department are taking part in a Europe-wide project which will ultimately lead to the launch of a moon lander.
The project is run by the Office for Educational Project Outreach Activities of the European Space Agency and its twofold aim is to give students real experience of space missions and to create a network of students and institutions on the Internet to facilitate the production and launch of space probes.
Leicester is one of the first universities involved in SSETI to award degree credits to two students involved in the project, allowing them to spend 15 hours a week co-ordinating the work of volunteer student teams and developing the satellite systems as part of their degree course.
The first workshop in the Student Space Exploration and Technology Initiative (SSETI) begins this week (9-13 October) and involves science and technology students across Europe, who will work together over the Internet and through tele-conferencing to develop the mission objectives.
The mission itself is in three stages: to produce a satellite, a moon orbiter and finally a moon lander. During this first stage, each university will design and build part of the satellite. All the parts will then be shipped to the European Space Agency, where they will be tested and launched aboard the Ariane 5 rocket.
Helen Laird, a final-year Physics Student who is one of the co-ordinators of the University of Leicester part in the mission, explained how the project will work. "We asked for help from the students and were delighted to get 40 volunteers within a week. They all put in time when they can, and my role is to facilitate the Leicester team working. It's taking up a lot of time, but it is very exciting and everyone is really enthusiastic.
"I have got a lot of first-years on the team and they are really fired up. It's great for them because in creating our satellite sub-system they will be learning things that will help them with their degrees.
"Leicester's part in the ESA project is to work with the University of Florence, Italy, to design and build the instrumentation sub-system. We have the responsibility of building something integral to the satellite, including navigation sensors, cameras and temperature detectors."
Her colleague on the project, Carolyn Brinkworth, also a final-year Physics Student, added: "This week will give us the mission objectives. For instance we will know which orbit we will use. Then we have to take the information and begin the real technical work, deciding which instruments we will use and exchanging that information with other teams. They will decide how that will fit into their part of the mission, and we will keep going until we get a final design. Once that is resolved then we need to search the country for instruments we can use. Space research laboratories often build back-up models of instruments which may in the end not be needed, so we shall be looking out for those."
Note to editors: Further information on the University of Leicester part in the SSETI initiative is available from Helen Laird, email email@example.com, or Carolyn Brinkworth, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Helen Laird at Dept of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, University Rd, Leicester, LE1 7RH. The SSETI website is www.sseti.net.
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