Thursday, July 5, 2012

UAH students join international lunar simulation

Kyle Burger
Huntsville, Alabama

Students from the University of Alabama-Huntsville recently fared-well in a high-tech lunar exploration competition.

“The events (of the simulation) actually happened slowly, because we are in space and things happen slowly in space,” UAH Director for Modeling, Simulation and Analysis, Mikel Petty, Ph.D. said. “It takes a long time to go from the earth to the moon.”

But the minds of UAH modeling and simulation students work furiously on a simulating a lunar exploration operation, complete with a rover and communications satellite.

“(We developed) some of the algorithm, we actually had an orbital propagator to determine to constellation orbit of the satellites,” Daniel O’Neil, technical manager at Marshall Space Flight Center, said.

A very advanced eight member UAH team competed in a worldwide competition known as "the smackdown" in Orlando, Fla.

Teams from universities around the world develop sophisticated computer simulations that work together, in real-time to simulate a lunar exploration scenario.

“We were the only southeastern team and university in Alabama to participate in the event,” student Crystal Fordyce said. “The other teams were from Penn State and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”

Other teams included: Pennsylvania State University, Technion (Israel), University of Genoa (Italy), and Marconi University (Italy).

UAH came home with two awards, including the Pitch Award, which recognizes collaboration with other teams, and the Board of Directors award. But what may help these students in the future is that the program was sponsored by AEgis Technologies and NASA.

“Working with NASA is a big deal,” student Swetha Govindaiah said. “It's a big thing for me. It gives me a lot of experience and new thoughts about modeling and simulation. I would like to work for a modeling simulation industry.”

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