Momentum Students Tackle Neptune’s Orbit

Momentum Students Tackle Neptune’s Orbit

Momentum is an interdisciplinary course offered to first- and second-year students during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP), through MIT’s Office of Minority Education (OME). The OME is led by Associate Dean and Director DiOnetta Jones Crayton, and the Momentum Team includes Lauren Backus, Staff Associate; Greg Jain, Assistant Dean; Harpreet Singh, Program Coordinator; and Deni Cifuentes, Program Assistant. Momentum is designed to prepare students for a future in the fields of science and engineering. This year, OME partnered with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to provide a unique Momentum experience, offering students the ability to work on one of two exciting “real-world” projects. Students complete the course in four weeks, receive 6 units of credit, and have the potential to be interviewed for future internships or other opportunities at NASA Goddard or with other industry partners.

This year, MIT Momentum teams of 3-4 students generated mission plans that tasked with answering one of two questions, both regarding ScienceCrafts orbiting Neptune. Teams assigned Challenge 1 addressed how a ScienceCraft (a solar sail with a 5-10 g/m2 areal density) can either make an orbiter of Neptune or increase the period of science observations in a flyby mission. Teams assigned Challenge 2 tackled the best way to achieve attitude control using lightweight and low power solutions. Python and Jupyter Notebook were used in each team’s attempt to answer these questions.

Throughout IAP, students heard lectures by both MIT Faculty and NASA professionals, on the topics of orbital mechanics, control, and Python. Students also attended professional development and public speaking workshops, from professionals both internal and external to MIT, and received support from upper-level Course Assistants and NASA scientists.

We invite the OVC and MIT community to view a video recap of the final presentations held on Thursday, February 2 by visiting our website after IAP.

— Lauren Backus, OME