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2006-2007 Student Winners

Five college undergraduate students have each been awarded a $9,000 fellowship to investigate revolutionary ideas for space exploration.

Will we be able to identify water on other planets using neutron physics? Can space travelers rely on asteroids to protect them from dangerous radiation? Can near-earth objects like asteroids be harnessed and combined with space tethers to allow for faster travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond? Would large orbiting mirrors bring a small part of the Martian surface closer to Earth-like temperatures? Is it possible to develop tiny, bug-like flying robots to explore planetary surfaces? One year from now, we’ll all know more about these questions.

"This year’s crop of exciting proposals and students continues our latest effort at identifying the best new ideas for advanced concepts in aerospace endeavors. We look forward to exciting work by these creative and accomplished students," said Dr. Diana Jennings of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), NIAC Associate Director. Jennings manages the Student Fellows program.

The winners of the NIAC Student Fellows Prize for Academic Year 2006-2007 are as follows:

  • J. Michael Burgess
    University of Alabama, Huntsville
    "Advanced Grazing Incidence Neutron Imaging System"
  • Daniella Della-Guistina
    University of Arizona
    "The Martian Bus Schedule ; An Innovative Technique for Protecting Humans on a Journey to Mars"
  • Jonathan Sharma
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    "START: Utilizing Near-Earth Asteroids with Tether Technologies"
  • Floris van Breugel
    Cornell University
    "Evolution of a Scalable, Hovering Flapping Robot"
  • Rigel Woida
    University of Arizona
    "The Road to Mars"

NIAC investigates revolutionary ideas that could greatly advance NASA's missions in the future. The proposals push the limits of known science and technology, and thus are not expected to be realized for at least decade or more.

Individual students, overseen by a faculty advisor, are given the opportunity to develop proposals addressing NIAC topics, adhering to NIAC’s unique requirements for projects 10 to 40 years into the future. The Prize is intended to foster mentoring, networking, and creativity, and is often a student’s first opportunity to exercise responsibility in project management.

Each Student Fellow will receive a total of $9,000 for the Academic Year 2006-2007. Funds will be directly disbursed to the Student Fellow in four increments. Student Fellows have the flexibility to use the funds as needed to advance their concept development, with the requirement that they must also be used to fund travel and hotel expenses for themselves and their mentor to two NIAC meetings, one in Tucson, Arizona in October 2006, and the other in Atlanta, Georgia in March 2007. "We have learned that the Prizewinners gain much by interacting with leaders in the NIAC community," said Jennings.

The next call for NIAC Student Fellows Program proposals will be released in January 2006 for awarding in the 2006-2007 Academic Year.

NIAC was created in 1998 to solicit revolutionary concepts from people and organizations outside NASA. The Universities Space Research Association operates NIAC for NASA.