Purdue students design mission to Mars

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – As the spring semester at Purdue wraps up, four students from the school of aeronautics and astronautics are preparing a mission to Mars.

“We’ve pulled at least three all-nighters in the last week. I think I’ve got about four hours of sleep on average, but we’re a very small team,” said team member Max Fagin.

The team is among 10 other finalists in the International Inspiration Design contest. Team Kanau is comprised of four Purdue students with eight other students from a Japanese University. Team member Ash Das said their goal is to design a two-person Mars fly by mission keeping cost, safety and simplicity in mind.

“We essentially go to them with a baseline design, and go head to head. Basically, the best design wins,” said Das.

Fagin said designing a mission to Mars is more than just using equations. It is about taking knowledge from that data and using it to create a vehicle that will make the 150 million mile trip to Mars and back.

“They’re going to evaluate us all based on the requirements they gave us, based on the concept they find most feasible, the most cost effective [and] the safest. They will decide, presumably, which one of us is most fit to move on to the next round,” said Fagan.

Students must lead, organize and execute the design study. Then present their results to national groups, including NASA Ames. Faculty adviser Michael Grant said, win or lose, it is all about representing Purdue’s heritage.

“This team has, in my opinion, put together a lot of various concepts from the classes they’ve had at Purdue. So, they really have all these pieces together that I don’t feel that other teams may necessarily have,” said Grant.

“No matter what happens in the competition, I think it’s a vindication that Purdue is doing something and teaching us exactly what we need to know,” said Fagin.

The competition will take place later in April with the winning team receiving $10,000 and an all expense paid trip to the 2014 International Mars Society Convention.

To learn more about team Kanau, click here.

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