Monday, March 26, 2012

2011 VSSEC-NASA Australian Space Prize Winner Announced

NASA has announced the winner of the 2011 VSSEC-NASA Australian Space Prize. Lyle Roberts from The Australian National University will spend 10 weeks at the NASA Ames Research Center, as part of the NASA Academy program, where he will meet leading NASA scientists and engineers, and visit cutting edge research facilities such as JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Kennedy Space Center. During his stay he will work on a current NASA research project “Understanding warning signs of major earthquakes” under the supervision of Principal Investigator, Friedemann T. Freund, San Jose State University Physics Dept. and Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute.

Lyle Roberts, Winner of the 2011 VSSEC-NASA Australian Space Prize (Photo: VSSEC)

 “Winning the VSSEC-NASA Space Prize and the opportunity to attend the NASA Space Academy at Ames is an incredible honour. This is one of those career defining moments that aspiring engineers dream of. My mind is still blowing itself apart; I think it will take a while for reality to sink in. My deepest gratitude goes to VSSEC and the other sponsors for providing me with (and supporting me through) this once in a lifetime opportunity.” said Lyle. The Engineering category of the prize is supported by the Engineers Australia National Committee for Space Engineering.

“The Engineers Australia’s National Committee for Space Engineering is pleased to note that this year’s winner of the EA Undergraduate Prize for Space Engineering, Lyle Roberts, has also been awarded the VSSEC-NASA Australian Space Prize. Congratulations Lyle, your excellent thesis made you a truly worthy winner. The committee is a strong supporter of this competition and would like to thank VSSEC and NASA for making the opportunity, to attend a 10 week NASA Academy program, available to Australian University undergraduates. We are confident that opportunities like this will inspire more young people to pursue a career in engineering and science.” (Mirek Vesely, Chair: National Committee for Space Engineering)

Australia presented NASA with five very strong candidates; selected from a national undergraduate thesis competition. Lyle’s project, High-Speed Digitally Enhanced Heterodyne Interferometry, presented a technique for increasing sensitivity and reducing the risk of critical mission failure of the proposed NASA GRACE ‘follow-on’ mission scheduled for launch in 2015. Other potential applications of this technique include high-sensitivity fibre-optic sensing, which is a rapidly expanding industry within Australia and around the world, and attracting significant interest from NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

When he returns to Australia Lyle will work with the Victorian Space Science Education Centre to share his NASA experience with secondary students and teachers to inspire Australia’s future scientists and engineers.

(SpaceBoomerang Note: This article has been re-produced from the VSSEC Media Release)

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