“It’s expensive to go to space.”
And that, says Teresa Ciardi, faculty advisor of the College of the Canyons Aerospace and Sciences Team, is why the group is seeking to raise $60,000 to cover the cost of creating science experiments that get launched into space.
COC has been regularly selected as the only community college to participate in NASA’s HASP (High Altitude Student Platform) program and RockSatX missions. AST initially began 15 years ago as an astronomy and physics club, until a group of students had the idea of applying for the HASP and RockSatX programs in 2015.
HASP is a program hosted by NASA in which students create proposals for experiments that have the power to make a difference in space. RockSatX is a multi-step program, also hosted by NASA, in which students must go through multiple design reviews to create an experiment for space travel.
Every year since their first launch in 2016, COC’s AST has been chosen to participate in these programs.
“Because we have proven our ability to deliver space flight articles that are successful,” said Ciardi, “we are now typically invited and expected to apply to HASP each year, and RockSatX anticipates that we will be participating the next year and looks forward to seeing what we plan to do.”
This year AST will be launching a total of four experiments at the two events. This is also the first instance at HASP in which an experiment will include student artwork.
The HASP experiment has a particle detector inside and will keep track of the number of gamma rays that are incident on the detector. AST will then compare that with the number of gamma rays that make it through the atmosphere to the ground. The goal of this experiment is to analyze this data to see if the atmosphere is successfully keeping a majority of the gamma rays out. This experiment will float in the upper stratosphere for 12 to 24 hours. This is the first year that the COC group was selected to launch a large payload.
The RockSatX experiment is their third time launching an auto rotation vehicle, a capsule released off of a rocket at 100-plus miles into space, with self-deploying wings to stabilize and slow its descent into the atmosphere. This is a proof-of-concept experiment, in hopes to prove that there is not a need for a parachute or extra fuel for rocket boosters for descent into planetary bodies with atmospheres.
Just the launch fee alone for RockSatX is $14,000. Ciardi says the cost per student to attend these events (having included travel expenses) is $2,000. Due to this high cost, only a select number of students are chosen to attend these programs. The more money raised, the more that students are granted opportunity to attend.
“It’s very surreal,” said AST Vice President Arely Castillo. “You get hit with a big wave of imposter syndrome because you think, a year ago today I was working in a hardwood store and now I’m at a NASA center, watching rocket scientists disassemble and build a rocket.”
Castillo has dreamed of working at NASA since she was in the fourth grade. These programs allow her to be one step closer to that goal of hers.
“I have students that have told me when they interview for places like Space X, Milennium Space, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, that every interview question, when they answer those questions, it was not their academics that got them through the interview and got them the job, but rather being able to answer from their experiences of space flight with HASP and RockSatX,” said Ciardi.
COC’s AST is accepting donations via check by mail addressed to HASP & RSX to be sent to College of the Canyons Foundation, HASP & RSX Account, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91355. They are also accepting online donations at bit.ly/3Pa6AS8.