The first Orion test mission in space is called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). The mission is set to lift off in 2014 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Melvin, a two-time shuttle astronaut, explained the details of the challenge and shared why hands-on experience and involvement is an effective catalyst for engaging young minds in the future of America's human spaceflight program.
"Exploration Flight Test-1 is set to launch next year, so participating in this challenge will give the students a real sense of being part of the NASA team," Melvin said. "They will be able to chart Orion's progress as it moves closer to the test launch. That's important because these students represent our future scientists, engineers and explorers."
NASA is planning for longer human space exploration missions outside the protective blanket of Earth's atmosphere and magnetosphere. NASA, Lockheed Martin and other partners are developing the Orion spacecraft to carry astronauts farther into space than humans ever have gone before. To do this, materials must be engineered for the spacecraft that will better protect future space explorers from the dangers of space radiation. In 2017, NASA's Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket, currently in development, will send Orion on a flight test mission around the moon.
NASA's Exploration Design Challenge brings cutting-edge learning to educators and students using standards-based activities, as well as print and video resources developed by leading education experts. Students taking part in the challenge will discover how to plan and design improved radiation shielding aboard the new spacecraft.
Younger students, in grades K-4 and 5-8, will analyze different materials that simulate space radiation shielding for Orion and recommend materials that best block harmful radiation and protect astronauts. Students in grades 9-12 will learn about radiation and human space travel in greater detail. Using what they have learned, they will be asked to think and act like engineers by designing shielding that protects a sensor on the Orion capsule from space radiation.