SLIPPERY ROCK, Pennsylvania (WKBN) –– Seven students from Slippery Rock University help NASA develop space exploration technologies.
Some of it could one day be used to land on Mars.
Part of that work is developing a tiny microscope made possible by a $ 25,000 grant from NASA.
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What does this have to do with slippery rock? The students there help NASA in the development and design of space research technologies, namely when working on a compact microscope.
The microscope will only be about 4 inches high and 4 inches wide.
It will collect soil samples from Mars and be able to analyze the soil there itself, rather than sending it back to Earth for scientists to look at.
The microscope must also be able to cope with the harsh conditions on Mars.
“At the moment, NASA is sending these robots to planets like Mars to study the ground and the atmosphere. Because of the capacity of the rocket, it is very difficult for NASA to get a large machine there, ”said Sagar Bhandari, assistant professor in the physics and engineering department at Slippery Rock.
This type of research is usually done in advanced research intensive institutions known as Research I universities like Harvard.
The seven students will develop and explore, test and simulate the tiny microscope to make it feel like it was on Mars.
It must withstand temperatures as low as -340 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this stage of the design you will have a 3D printed plastic model, but the end result will be metal. It can fit in the palm of your hand, but the developers said the final product will be much smaller.
“It’s a great opportunity as a student at Slipry Rock and we have a new engineering program,” said Charleigh Rondeau, a junior industrial systems engineer.
“There are a lot of interesting projects in the works and I would say this is one of the first projects in the physics and engineering department that is on this scale,” said Ashton Bloom, a young physics student.
Students will work on it all summer, around 20 hours a week, and they expect to start the tests in September.