Northeastern University students have been working to help humanity take it’ next giant leap- putting
astronauts on Mars. In the last few months, they have competed in two engineering challenges in order
to design and build equipment to help astronauts on the planet Mars.
One group of students have built a drill to extract water from beneath the Mars’ surface. And the
other group has built a rover to accompany and assist astronauts as they work. Both these projects were
displayed in the Boston’s museum of science to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and
future of space exploration.
“We’re being invited to the same event as a past Apollo engineer,” says Tom Degen, a fourth-year
mechanical engineering student who led the Mars rover team. “It’s just incredible.”
Degen and 15 of his fellow students competed in the Mars society’s University Rover Challenge in Utah
in the end of May. The competition challenged university students to build rovers capable of picking up
and delivering objects to astronauts, navigating autonomously across rough terrain, servicing
equipment, and searching for life in the samples they collected. It was Northeastern University’s first
year competing, and no other rookie teams were accepted.
The most challenging thing engineering-wise was building a robotic arm from scratch, since there were
limitations on how heavy it could be. Degen said,”It needed to a have a pretty far reach and still be
able to lift heavy things. Members of the rover team will be joined by the students who competed in
NASA’s moon to Mars Ice and prospecting challenge and their robot, which is designed to drill into Mars
and College water that is frozen under the surface of the planet. Dan McGann, a fourth- year
engineering student who was the team leader on the robot project, said that they were all pretty
excited and think it’s incredible that their robots could inspire the robots that one day would actually go
the planet Mars.