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WVRTC Students to Participate in NASA JSC’s Micro-G NExT Program


Micro-G NExT test site in the NASA Johnson Space Center Neutral Buoyancy Lab

This Monday kicks off the annual Micro-G Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams (NExT) program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. An undergraduate student team with West Virginia Robotic Technology Center (WVRTC) members will be represented by Sean Lantto, Matt Morrow and Justin Fitzwater.

Micro-G NExT gives teams five separate challenges to choose from; WVRTC chose the Anchoring Device for Regolith challenge. Their specific prototype is a compliment to NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, the first step in a journey towards placing a human on Mars.

WVRTC is currently testing tools that can grab asteroid boulders for testing. The trio’s prototype aims to serve as an anchor to attach to the asteroid so that the astronauts can clip their tools to the device rather than making the journey back to their spacecraft for the various tools they may need.

“I’ve done space [activities] my whole college career, but they’ve all been design projects: models and code. This is my first physical object that I’m getting to physically touch; that’s pretty cool,” said Lanto, an intern for WVRTC. “I’m pretty excited to see the [Neutral Buoyancy Lab] because that’s where all the astronauts train.”

After a few sleepless weeks, the group believes they have created something that will surpass the Neutral Buoyancy Lab engineering and safety reviews.

“I’ve never been to Johnson [Space Center]. It’s an integral part of NASA, so it’ll be cool to see what it’s all about. I also hope we get to see Mission Control; that’s a big deal,” Morrow, WVRTC student engineer, anticipated.

This year Micro-G NExT will host 24 schools for the four-day event. Registration and orientation begin Monday at 7am, and final presentations and reflections will be completed by Thursday at 1pm.

“When I was a little kid, my first dream job was to be an astronaut. I’m not really going that path right now, but I think it’d be cool to check out some of the facilities to see some of the stuff that I’ve dreamt of as a little kid,” said Fitzwater, a volunteer for the project.

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