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UNL team chosen for NASA's 2010 Microgravity U.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will send its fourth team in three years to NASA’s prestigious Microgravity University. On December 8, NASA announced the selected teams that will prepare this winter for their April 2010 missions with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The UNL team, nicknamed “Red Moon,” includes eight Nebraska Engineering students:

  • Team leader Kevin Watts from Ansley, Neb., is a senior who majors in mechanical engineering.
  • Khoa Chu from Lincoln is a senior who majors in mechanical engineering.
  • Derek Fierstein from Grand Island is a senior who majors in mechanical engineering.
  • Andrea Gilkey from Overland Park, Kan., is a senior who majors in biological systems engineering.
  • Andrew Kelley from Lincoln is a senior who majors in mechanical engineering.
  • Eldon Summerson from North Platte is a junior who majors in mechanical engineering.
  • Kyrik Weidman from Windsor, Vt., is a junior who majors in mechanical engineering.

The team’s faculty co-advisers are Carl Nelson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Zhaoyan Zhang, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

According to NASA, Team Red Moon will study cryocooler validation for the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) VF-200 for use with the International Space Station starting in 2012-13.

Cryocooling is required to keep the High-Temperature Superconducting (HTS) magnet assemblies at or below 40 degrees Kelvin, or 40 degrees above absolute zero, for the VF-200’s plasma exhaust technologies at Low Earth Orbit. UNL students will test the cryocooling in super-gravity (1.8g) and microgravity (<0.1g) conditions.

Microgravity University missions fly on NASA’s specially-equipped aircraft with parabolic maneuvers on 1.5-hour flights over the Gulf of Mexico to simulate varying conditions of gravity.

For more information, visit the NASA project description and check for updates and blog posts at the UNL Microgravity Team’s Web site.

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