With triumphant shouts and phones aimed skyward, University of Hawaiʻi Project Imua students achieved liftoff, launching the rocket and payload they designed and built for the NASA Student Launch Project competition near Huntsville, Alabama, on April 6, 2019.
“Iʻm so excited that our flight went so well,” said Katherine Bronston, Windward Community College team leader. “It really went just as it was supposed to.”
“Iʻm super excited,” said Honolulu CC student Craig Opie. “Totally stoked that it actually worked. We put a lot of effort and a lot of just collaboration, lack of sleep into this thing, especially over the last couple of weeks. And just seeing it go up and perform so beautifully was just amazing.”
NASA Student Launch competition teams are challenged to “call their shot” and predict before launch day how high their rocket will fly. The Project Imua rocket flew to 4,338 feet, and the team had predicted a peak height of 4,700 feet The 10-foot-tall rocket is named “Fissure 8” after the prominent volcanic vent in the 2018 Kīlauea eruption on Hawaiʻi Island.
“To be able to see it in person, it was really beautiful to see it work the way itʻs meant to and see those ʻchutes come out and just watching it come down,” said Mia Fong, Honolulu CC team leader. “It was amazing.”
The payload, a four-wheeled rover named “Hoʻomau” (the Hawaiian values of perseverance and persistence) was designed to travel 10 feet before collecting a soil sample. The entire experience was inspiring.
“I might become an astronaut,” said Leomana Turalde, Windward CC student. “Iʻve always kind of wanted to become an astronaut since I was a kid, and watching this rocket fly, Iʻm kind of finding confidence in myself that itʻs possible.”
Project Imua’s primary mission is to develop small payloads for space flight while providing undergraduates with project-based learning opportunities in STEM fields. Hawaiʻi Space Grant Consortium awarded Project Imua a grant of $65,931, which covered materials, student stipends and travel expenses.
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—By Kelli Trifonovitch