During the course of the day, finalists had the opportunity to work in a 1/6th gravity simulation, attempt a repair to the Hubble Telescope, and look for water on Mars. Along the way, they had the chance to meet and work with some of NASA's top scientists, including Dr. James Garvin. The finalists also performed a science "whelmer" demonstration on camera in the NASA television studios.
Read more about today's challenges:
The recent discovery of water on the surface of Mars is celebrated with this challenge. With the assistance of NASA's lead scientist in solar system exploration, Young Scientist Challenge finalists learned how the surface topology of Mars is carefully scanned via orbiting satellites. Finalists were challenged to use computer controlled precision laser range finders to gather topographic data from scale models of actual Martian terrain.
As NASA continues planning to return to the surface of the moon, scientists again need to train themselves to live and work for extended periods in low gravity situations. In this challenge, finalists constructed, modified and operated a system capable of providing a one-sixth gravity simulation experience. In the large NASA centrifuge lab, dummy was strapped into a lunar saddle and travelled 100 feet via an overhead gantry system to perform simple tasks as might be experienced on the moon.
The uncertainties and challenges of performing even simple tasks in space conditions will be the core of this activity. Finalists employed the original training models of the Hubble Telescope to complete a complex repair mission, similar to those performed by NASA astronauts. This challenge was hosted by both a NASA Astronaut and a NASA scientist.
Studio Communication Challenge
Prepared to show proficiency in communicating science via television, finalists rehearsed at home video presentations featuring optics, electromagnetic radiation, magnetism, thermodynamics, and basic electronics. Each presentation related to a phenomenon commonly experienced in space:
Newton's Prism—a gathering of frequencies
Eddy Currents & the Earth's magnetic field
Telescope Basics: Light Refraction
The Optics of Total Internal Reflection