– The Florida Tech student lunar research finalist team was awarded a close second place to the MIT team in the 2004-2005 Lunar In-Situ Resource
Utilization (ISRU) Design Conference. The event, sponsored by NASA and the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI) and administered by the Florida Space
Grant Consortium, was held at Kennedy Space Center May 24 -25.
Four finalist teams participated in the nationwide competition to develop ways to utilize lunar regolith (top soil on the moon) to extract oxygen, water,
or other commodities required for lunar exploration and research operations. The other two finalist schools were the Colorado School of Mines and Purdue.
The Florida Tech team was awarded $12,000 to develop a detailed design of their process. Funding went to refine, build, and test the prototype of their
experiment. Their project consisted of design and construction of a robotic arm for the lunar rover that moves lunar soil to a reaction chamber (on the
rover) where a molten silicate electrolysis process extracts oxygen from the soil.
The Florida Tech team consisted of 24 undergraduates, primarily physics and space science students. Senior and physics major, Sara Imari Walker, was the
overall student team leader. Faculty advisors were Dr. Hamid Rassoul and Dr James Mantovani of the Department of Physics
and Space Sciences. Dr. Samuel Durrance, former astronaut and Florida Tech research faculty, served as the lead mentor/consultant.