It was ‘Mission Accomplished’ for Victoria University students who recently completed a trip to NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston on a once-in-a-lifetime study tour.
As part of the CASE International Space School, the students competed in the Space Center University Challenge against 300+ students from Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.
The challenges centered around a mission to Mars, which is NASA’s current focus for space exploration.
Challenges included building and launching a rocket, building a Mars rover to collect Martian rocks, programming a rover to navigate the Martian surface, constructing heat shields, and designing astronaut clothing and habitats to protect astronauts from the extreme hot and cold weather of Mars.
One VU team came second in the overall challenge, but a number of groups were awarded prizes for individual challenges.
Students also participated in a simulated mission to Mars with one team acting as mission control while a second team were flight crew. Their mission was to launch the flight crew safely from Earth and land them safely on Mars, with a number of emergency scenarios in play.
They also experienced scuba diving to simulate micro-gravity space walks, and conducted a spacewalk challenge.
The program included presentations from prominent NASA scientists and astronauts, including International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott.
The students also had time for cultural activities in Houston, including cheering on the Houston Rockets at an NBA basketball game, and visiting the Natural Science Museum.
Students then flew to California to spend four days in Silicon Valley where they participated in the ‘SpaceX Challenge,’ a competition to develop a business solution to the problem of space junk.
The students participated in entrepreneurship and design-thinking workshops at the Silicon Valley Innovation Centre. They also visited Google headquarters and Stanford University.
Cultural activities included a drive on the Golden Gate bridge, and an evening at the famous Fisherman’s Warf.
The 21 students came from all fields of study at VU and were all part of the VU Academy for Social Change & Leadership. Students were selected for the study tour on their academic standing as well as their contributions to the community or to VU through volunteer work and leadership roles.