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Student Research Rocks at NASA

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Howard University students Josh Brown, Jade Noel Parker, Daril Brown, and Phathom Donald conduct rocket experiment.

WASHINGTON (September 2014) – A team of Howard University students made history when their in-flight research project was launched into space from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The project collected atmospheric samples near the highest point of the flight to test for the presence of microorganisms. Data from the samples will be used to develop a bio-signature that can help look for life on Earth-like, extra-solar planets.

The Terrier-Improved Orion sounding rocket was launched at 7:21 a.m. EST and flew to a height of 73.3 miles. It landed in the Atlantic Ocean 43.9 miles from Wallops Flight Facility, 12.16 minutes after launch. It contained several other student-built experiments.

The project was part of the RockSat-C 2014 Program which provides an opportunity for students to design and build a sounding rocket payload, and launch the payload on a rocket. Student teams, like Howard’s, had been steadily working since the fall to design, plan, and build a payload that would perform an in-flight experiment. The RockSat program is funded and supported by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium and NASA.

The Howard University students involved were: Ajamu Abdullah, Daril Brown, Josh Brown, Olivia Dickens, Phathom Donald, Hilton Hosannah, Shii-Anna Mudie, Jade Noel Parker, and Aara'LYarber.

Marcus Alfred, associate professor in physics and astronomy, directed the project along with Vernon Morris, professor of chemistry and atmospheric sciences, and Broderick Eribo, an associate professor in biology

“I believe this is the first payload ever launched into space that was entirely designed and built at Howard University – and only the second from an HBCU,” Alfred said. “The students accomplished a unique feat and deserve kudos and recognition. We are excited about the prospect of analyzing the ‘space samples’ in the weeks to come.”

Alfred said Howard is planning to participate in the launch annually and has begun gearing up for next summer’s project. He also said students and professors are designing and constructing a small satellite to put into orbit within the next 24 months.

To learn more, visit the student webpage:

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