For immediate release
San Antonio — July 19, 2016 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will develop experiments for a NASA-funded education program designed to inspire high school and middle school students to develop solutions for commercial exploration and settlement of the moon.
The Lunar Caves Analog Test Sites (LCATS) program will be offered through the San Antonio Prefreshman Engineering Program (SAPREP) at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) through a grant to the WEX Foundation. Starting in the fall of 2017, the LCATS program will simulate a lunar mission with science investigations, space exploration mission operations, technology development, and architecture of habitable space systems.
“Participating students will have an opportunity over three years to get world-class instruction and experience as they learn scientific techniques and planning that go into a long-term space mission,” said Edward Patrick, a senior research scientist at SwRI who is serving as a co-investigator on the grant.
Through a $1.24 million NASA grant, the LCATS program will identify at-risk students to help improve their education and career trajectories. LCATS was one of nine proposals selected from 73 applications to a competitive NASA program.
“Being selected by NASA further validates our STEM education model for inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers to develop a STEM-educated workforce for the community,” said Sam Ximenes, LCATS principal investigator and board chair of the WEX Foundation.
In addition to offering lectures and presentations, SwRI scientists will develop experiments with high-altitude balloons, remote-sensing and geology techniques. South Texas caves and karst features, including Robber Baron Cave in San Antonio, will serve as analogs for the Marius Hills Skylight, an actual geological feature under consideration for a potential underground human settlement on the moon.
“We want students to get excited about science by thinking of multidisciplinary solutions to big problems,” said Dr. Marius Necsoiu, an SwRI remote-sensing scientist and grant co-investigator. “Participants will be challenged with experiments and a commitment to see a mission to its conclusion.”
Each year will offer new missions, with remote-sensing and reconnaissance experiments in the first two years, and a habitation and human settlement phase in the third year.
For more information, contact Robert Crowe, (210) 522-4630, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.