Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Associate Dean Advises NASA on Human Challenges in Space Programs

17.07.2008
In two years, NASA plans to begin the new space program that will send human astronauts to Mars. It won't be easy, and technical issues aren't the only challenges.

The U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush want NASA to begin work on the new Constellation Program now. Yet NASA cannot expand its 18,000-member workforce, and its employees cannot devote their full attention to Constellation until the final shuttle mission is complete in 2010.

It's a conundrum for NASA administrator Michael Griffin, and for advice he has turned to the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and its human capital committee. Gerald Kulcinski, University of Wisconsin-Madison associate dean for research and Grainger Professor of Nuclear Engineering, is chair of the committee.

Formed in 2005 and chaired by UW-Madison engineering physics adjunct professor Harrison Schmitt, NAC is composed of seven committees that provide recommendations for Griffin on a variety of challenges currently facing NASA.

The 32 NAC members come from a variety of academic, industry and military backgrounds. Six former astronauts, including Schmitt and Neil Armstrong, are members.

Kulcinski says the council is helpful even if a particular problem isn't from their area of expertise.

"They'll make nontrivial suggestions or say 'I know x or y who's an expert in this area, let's get them on the phone,'" he says. "It's as much who they know as much as them actually solving the problem."

Kulcinski's connection to NASA began in the mid-1980s when he began researching commercial applications for Helium-3, an alternative nuclear fuel source that could ideally produce no radioactive waste. The moon is an abundance source of Helium-3; it contains approximately 1 million cubic tons of Helium-3, and merely 50 cubic tons could serve the electricity needs of the United States for a year.

Schmitt - the only geologist to walk on the moon - became involved in the research and co-taught courses with Kulcinski. Griffin was also connected as part of a proposal to send miner equipment designed by Kulcinski's team to the moon to extract Helium-3.

However, it's not his technical knowledge that helps Kulcinski lead the human capital committee. His experience as an associate dean qualifies him to tackle a variety of human-based problems.

One of those problems is how to attract the best and brightest young employees.

"They're not getting as many young folks as they need. These are the people who will take you to the moon and Mars and beyond," Kulcinski says. "NASA is worried about trying to solve cutting-edge problems, so they need dedicated people."

During the Apollo missions in the 1950s and '60s, college graduates flocked to NASA, viewing the agency as "the place to go." Now, recent graduates have more options as fields such as medical research, homeland security and finance grow. The average age of a NASA employee has risen to 50.

Kulcinski understands the challenge of attracting top-notch young people. And he knows how to succeed.

"UW-Madison is one of the top engineering colleges in the country. We deal with the best and the brightest students; we have a sense of what it takes to motivate them, attract them," he says.

NAC terms last three years with an option to renew at the discretion of the NASA administrator, who is appointed by the president. The council gathers four times a year, rotating the meeting locations among the various NASA labs around the country.

Sandra Knisely | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>