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February 13, 2017

ASU is rapidly becoming known for its out-of-this-world endeavors. From Psyche to CubeSat. From Mars to the moon. Here, in honor of Valentine’s Day, are five things we (heart) about space: 

1. It's the future

“The yearning for space is a deep human imperative. This drive to explore away from our planet greatly pre-dates the invention of any means to actually do it. Around 100 B.C. Cicero wrote of a dreaming of flying away from the Earth, into space, and looking back at our planet. So to me, space is where we are going, and it is a goal for a better humanity, and a symbol for a positive future.” — Lindy Elkins-Tanton, planetary scientist, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and principal investigator of the NASA Psyche Mission.

Launching in October 2023, the Psyche spacecraft will travel to a metal asteroid using solar-electric propulsion, arriving in 2030, following an Earth gravity assist spacecraft maneuver in 2024 and a Mars flyby in 2025. After a six-year cruise, the mission plan calls for 20 months spent in orbit around the asteroid, mapping it and studying its properties.

2. It's not always a one-way street

Usually we launch things into space, but occasionally space sends things to us.

ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies is home to the world's largest university-based meteorite collection, with more than 30,000 individual specimens representing more than 2,000 distinct meteorites.

Center curator Laurence Garvie helped add to the collection last summer by leading an expedition into the White Mountains to hunt down a meteor, which fell in June. Seeing a fireball and finding the meteorite fragments is extremely rare. 

3. It's getting closer

The pace of the push to Mars is stepping up as NASA works on its next-generation heavy rocket and private space companies continue their duel for primacy. As any Arizonan knows, you can’t go anywhere without water.

There is evidence of ice on the moon, which can be mined for water and fuel, and an ASU-led NASA mission will map it. LunaH-Map will launch in 2018 and, once at the moon, embark on a 60-day science mission, consisting of 141 science orbits, using a suite of science instruments tucked into a shoebox-sized CubeSat.

It’s one part of the journey to Mars. As NASA said in a press release, LunaH-Map “will help inform NASA’s strategy for sending humans farther into the solar system.”

4. Mysterious is sexy

While we’ve learned a lot about space, we don’t know much about it. And, as one space systems engineer said, “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

Where did we come from? Asteroids are leftover debris from the solar system formation process. An ASU instrument is part of the OSIRIS-REx mission to Bennu, an asteroid whose surface dust and dirt may record the earliest history of our solar system. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. 

5. Red is romantic

Red is the color of romance … and Mars, for which a lot of people have a lot of love.

ASU is home to the Mars Space Flight Facility, a research center in the School for Earth and Space Exploration. Scientists, researchers, and students there specialize in using instruments on spacecraft at Mars for remote sensing research into the geology and mineralogy of the planet. 

The instruments based at the facility include the Thermal Emission Imaging System on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter and two Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometers on the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. (A full-size Mars rover model, bedded on reddish-brown sand, dominates the building's lobby.)

Before the loss of NASA's Mars Global Surveyor in November 2006, the facility also operated the Thermal Emission Spectrometer aboard the spacecraft.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU Peace Corps Week gives students opportunity to apply.
ASU Peace Corps recruiter says there's no age limit — one volunteer is 87.
February 14, 2017

International experiences include eating interesting foods, doing interesting things — and getting married

Meditating at a waterfall. Bucket baths. Eating ant eggs. 

For Peace Corps Week at Arizona State University, former volunteers recalled their most memorable experiences abroad in a pair of videos for ASU Now.

Their stories will contribute to a series of events across ASU’s Downtown, Polytechnic, West and Tempe campuses that will help interested students, faculty and staff learn about the application process, work programs and the daily life of a volunteer. 

“I’m happy to meet with students, discuss their skills and interests, and answer questions,” ASU Peace Corps recruiter Breanne Lott said, explaining that a new application system allows perspective volunteers to apply for specific countries. 

Lott, 27, points out that there’s no age limit for volunteering and that in some cases short-term assignments are available. She finished her service in 2014, and there’s no question about her best experience. “I married an Ethiopian.”

“Our wedding was Ethiopian style,” she added, saying “it turned into a giant community gathering. We had a whole goat roasted and flaming papayas for decoration.”

Jessica Hirshorn, a College of Integrated Sciences and the Arts senior lecturer who teaches a Peace Corps course each fall, served in the early ’90s. She talked about bucket baths and said her favorite spot in the world remains a small waterfall near her home in Micronesia where she would meditate in solitude. After 23 years, she’s planning a trip back.

“Thanks to the advent of Facebook, I’m in touch with everybody in my community,” Hirshorn said. After uploading a few photos, it seemed almost like “the entire island ended up Facebook friending me.”

Notable Peace Corps volunteers include Lillian Carter, mother of ex-President Jimmy Carter; Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings; novelist Paul Theroux and handyman Bob Vila.

The current class of volunteers includes 87-year-old Alice Carter, serving in Morocco.

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order more than 50 years ago to pair U.S. civilians — along with their education and skills — with underdeveloped nations that asked for assistance.

The first volunteers served in Ghana and Tanganyika, modern day Tanzania. Programs later opened in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Host countries must invite the Peace Corps and receive security clearance.

National Peace Corps Week starts Feb. 26. ASU organizers said the university is getting an early start to avoid conflict with the academic calendar.

Over 200,000 volunteers have served in 193 countries and as of last year more than 1,000 had been ASU alums.

Part of the experience is taking in local culture. Michael Sieng, a doctoral student in the School of Sustainability, remembers eating red ant eggs in Thailand, "it's actually really expensive, and so I was only able to eat a little bit — which was fine because it had a kind of interesting taste to it."  

Deanna Dent

Photographer , ASU Now