NASA Selects Hampton Mission for Satellite FlightHAMPTON, Va.
Hampton University’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesophere (AIM) Mission has been selected for satellite flight in NASA’s Small Explorer (SMEX) program, NASA announced last month.
Hampton’s research project was one of two missions selected from among 43 proposals submitted by U.S. universities and research centers. Hampton was selected based on the merits of its scientific, technical, management and cost plans.
The mission is dedicated to the study of noctilucent, or night shining, clouds (NLCs). NLCs form 50 miles above the Earth’s surface usually in regions poleward of 55 degrees latitude during the summer. The main focus of AIM is to answer the question, “Why do NLCs form and vary?” The question has existed since 1885 when NLCs were first observed from the ground by the amateur astronomer Robert Leslie who reported his sighting in a “Letter to the Editor” to Nature.
Hampton University is the first historically Black college or university ever to be selected to be solely responsible for a major NASA satellite mission. The $80-million mission includes hardware, software, flight operations, science team leadership, science data collection, reporting, data archival for use by the scientific community, and education and public outreach.
“To win a satellite mission like this doesn’t happen very often,” says James M. Russell, AIM principal investigator and Hampton University’s co-director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences. “The competition was very fierce, and we are extremely pleased to be selected. This mission will enhance the research environment at HU and it will also provide the opportunity for significant HU student training in carrying out satellite missions,” Russell says.
Students will assist a team of experts in a variety of efforts including the design and implementation of the science data system, information retrieval from remote sensing instruments, instrument test data evaluation and instrument in-orbit performance trending studies. They will also assist with the operation of the AIM Project Data Center at Hampton University and implementing the public outreach program.
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