Cal State Northridge has received a nearly $2 million grant from NASA to study the reliability of lunar and planetary spacecraft.
CSUN faculty and graduate and undergraduate students will be working closely with scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to identify potential problems that may occur in equipment used in future space missions.
Physics professor Nicholas Kioussis, who is directing the project with two other CSUN professors, said the research is essential to the success of the nation's space program.
"If we can understand the mechanisms of failure, then we can come up with ways to prevent them," Kioussis said.
Kioussis, physics professor Ruqian Wu, and professor Bezhad Bavarian of CSUN's Department of Civil and Manufacturing Engineering will study how the various aspects of space, from radiation and gamma rays to time, affect the materials used on space missions.
The $1,996,688 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration includes money to encourage the participation of minority students in the project.
"That's one of the most exciting things about this grant," Wu said. "We are trying to get students, minority students, interested in math, science and physics. People tend to think those subjects are difficult, not exciting. This research is exciting, and I think the students will enjoy it."
Kioussis said the researchers hope that the opportunity to work on this project will spur the students to go on to graduate school and get their doctorates and become researchers and professors.
Wu said the grant allows for 10 to 12 students a year to work alongside CSUN and JPL scientists as they try to prevent the degradation of space equipment.
Wu explained that the research is not focusing on the spacecraft as a whole, but rather the individual components that are essential to its operation, such as computers.
"The computers on earth are sort of in a benign position," he said. "But in space they are exposed to extreme conditions, such as extremely harsh heat and cold. Some space missions are far away and take years. What's not a problem on earth, can be on a space mission. We need to understand what might happen so we can prevent it."
California State University, Northridge has more than 28,000 full- and part-time students and offers 48 bachelor's and 39 master's degrees. Founded in 1958, it is the only four-year university in the San Fernando Valley.
| Public Affairs Offices/Campus News
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