May 2023 Newsletter

May 2023 Newsletter


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Local High School Student Wins Second Place at State Science Fair

By Exolith Lab

With the decrease of arable land in recent years and humanity’s goal of returning to the moon, plant growth on nearby terrestrials has become increasingly important. By understanding how plants can grow in environments beyond Earth, we can then look beyond the scope of our own atmosphere for our future in space. Recently, Oviedo high school senior Jenna Leiss caught the attention of the local scientific community by winning second place at the regional and state science fair for her research at Exolith Lab on Tagetes Patula's root structure and growth using lunar regolith simulant at various particle sizes.

“(This project was) Something out of my comfort zone,” she said, “I wanted to see if my goals were achievable, and I learned and succeeded in so much more than I expected.”

Leiss plans to go to college this fall to begin studying pre-vet. Although she does not anticipate continuing this study her work has significant implications for future space missions, and it highlights the importance of encouraging and supporting young scientists in their pursuits of knowledge.


UCF Student Wins Scholarship for Summer Research at Exolith

By Exolith Lab

One of the many considerations for building permanent infrastructure on the Moon is safe and reliable transportation of personnel and materials across its inhospitable surface. As a way to best prepare rovers for these long and difficult traverses, the Florida Space Institute (at UCF), in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame, has built the RIDER (Regolith Interactions for the Development of Extraterrestrial Rovers) planetary Terra mechanics testbed.

One of the many subsystems utilized by RIDER is dehumidification and air filtration, designed by mechanical engineering undergraduate student, Abigail Glover. Recently, Glover’s proposal to quantify the performance of this system and how environmental factors affect trafficability was selected as a recipient of the 2023 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at the UCF. Her research will focus on the effects of humidity levels on regolith simulant particle interactions with rover wheels. In addition to attending workshops, classes, and running her project, she will also present her findings at the end of the summer term and intends to submit and present her work to a professional conference.

Glover's work has the potential to impact future space exploration missions by providing valuable insight into the behavior of regolith simulants in ambient testing conditions here on Earth.

“I am looking forward to providing quantifiable data for future RIDER users on exactly how the environment and this vital RIDER subsystem is impacting their research and why it’s so important,” Glover says, “I’m honored to have been given this opportunity to bring more data to RIDER so that others can be confident using it in the future.”