Photo: Former Materials Science intern Lily Leyva (L) and PISCES Geology Tech Kyla Defore collect data at a planetary analog test site in Summer 2017.

In just a few weeks, PISCES will welcome its latest team of student interns to work on several research programs in the field and in the lab.

Beginning June 18 and ending Aug. 14, the 10-week program will host one Akamai Workforce intern and two junior volunteers this year. The program will focus on applied research in Materials Science to create sintered basalt pavers for a vertical launch/landing pad and will be organized into three phases: 1) Research and Field Work, 2) Lab Work and 3) Manufacturing.

The Research and Field Work phase will teach participants about In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), and how locally sourced, raw materials can be used to extract resources like oxygen, water and rocket propellant. Students will also learn how to identify various rock forms and soil compositions in the local terrain, while using remote sensing to locate potential planetary analog sites for sampling. Once identified, students will “ground-truth” these areas by visiting them in person with survey equipment to collect samples.

In the Lab Work phase, students will spectrometer, they will determine the chemical composition of their collections, using 3 to 5 representative samples. The students will analyze their samples using a range of testing methods. Using an EDXRF spectrometer, they will determine the chemical make-up of three to five samples collections. The students will also analyze the mineral composition of their samples using a binocular microscope, and measure for particle sizes, heat capacity, density and thermal conductivity.

Once all the data is recorded, students will enter the Manufacturing phase to fabricate their samples into usable products. This phase will involve sintering the samples at high heat in a mold for sustained periods of time and recording the results that yield the most durable and cohesive products.

The three program phases this year are designed to teach students how to conduct sound research, use remote sensing techniques to locate potential analog sites, characterize sites and choose the best samples. They will also learn to gather accurate data, conduct in-depth analysis, and use the results to create their own basalt paver tiles.