NASA-Funded Interns Shine at International Space Conference

Finn Braun speaks about his designFinn Braun speaks about his design for a lunar ATV at the 2024 International Space Development Conference while his mentor Dr. Pascal Lee looks on. /Submitted Image/NSS/Madhu Thangavelu

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two high school interns funded by NASA‘s Neurodiversity Network (N3) presented their groundbreaking research at the National Space Society (NSS) International Space Development Conference (ISDC-2024) in Los Angeles. The event took place from May 23 to 26, showcasing the efforts of young scientists under the mentorship of Dr. Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and Chair of the Mars Institute.

Innovative Projects for Future Space Missions

Finn Braun, a high school junior, co-authored a paper titled “An ATV for the Moon” with Dr. Lee. Using a computer-aided design (CAD) program, Braun developed a concept for an all-terrain vehicle that could be used on future lunar missions. This project might catch the attention of NASA’s Artemis Program, which aims to return humans to the Moon.

Krista Heinemann, who has recently graduated high school, co-authored the paper “New location for the ‘Noctis Landing’ candidate human landing site on Mars.” She used NASA data to refine potential landing locations for human missions to Mars. Heinemann focused on the Noctis Landing site, a promising candidate for future exploration.

Both Braun and Heinemann delivered oral presentations at the conference and lead-authored technical publications reporting their findings. Their work stands out as exemplary contributions to the field of space exploration.

Mentorship and Support

Dr. Pascal Lee, who mentored the interns, praised their dedication and achievements. “Finn and Krista were outstanding interns, who now each have lead-authored scientific/technical publications while in high school. I am sure they will each do great things in the future,” he said.

Nurturing Future Scientists

The N3 internship program, currently in its fourth summer, pairs high school students with NASA Subject Matter Experts. In 2023, 21 interns participated in the program, benefiting from hands-on experience and mentorship in various scientific fields.

The N3 program is part of NASA’s Science Activation Portfolio, designed to connect NASA science experts with community leaders to foster a deeper understanding of the world and beyond.

Pioneering Space Research and Inspiring Futures

The achievements of Braun and Heinemann highlight the potential of young scientists when given the right opportunities and guidance. As they continue their educational journeys, their early contributions to space research promise to influence future missions and inspire other students to pursue careers in science and technology.

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