The past year was probably one of the most exciting years in the Engineering Design Program’s History. The Advance Design Students from the Sophomore Class and a select few Freshmen took on one of the most challenging projects that could be imagined.
Program Director, Jeff Levy took a “shot in the dark” and sent an email to former nine time NASA Shuttle Astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz who is currently the CEO of AD ASTRA Rocket Company in Houston, Texas. It was simply an email to see if Dr. Diaz would be interested in doing a short “motivational” talk to the students as they prepared for their 2 semester capstone project. AD ASTRA’s Communication Director called Jeff the next day to get some information. After looking at the EDT Web Page and the quality of the student’s work, Dr. Diaz set up a call. And after an hour and a half phone call they put together a plan for the project. The students would have a once in a lifetime opportunity. That would be to design a Low Earth Orbit (1) “Solar Electric” Space Tug for cargo missions to the moon, removing space debris and satellite repair missions. (2) Mars Transport Ship Designed to Take Astronauts to mars, not in 6 months, but in 39 days because of the VASIMR Rocket Engine that was designed by Dr. Diaz and is currently going through final tests for NASA. (3) Lastly they would be asked to develop a “Space Port” that would function as Station, a ship construction port and a staging area for deep space and lunar missions.