Essay on radiation won Erik a NASA ticket

It is something of a dream come true for computer science student Erik Sandal: This summer, he will spend two weeks at NASA!

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    Erik Sandal travels to NASA courtesy of Mars Institute Student Chapter, UiS
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    Erik Sandal (centre) is congratulated by MISC-leader Maria Råken and her deputy, Beder Al Furati.

Erik Sandal has won the space competition held by the Mars Institute Student Chapter (MISC) at the University of Stavanger. His essay about how astronauts can protect themselves from radiation won him a two-week tailored visit to the NASA Ames Research Center in California, USA.

“I’m hugely interested in space and hope to pursue a career in satellite technology. For example, I’d maybe like to steer rovers on Mars”, says the IT student from Flisa in Glåmdalen.  

Open competition

Every year an accomplished and enthusiastic student gets to visit NASA in the USA and learn about space travel, but this year we took a different approach.

“Previously we have selected a member of MISC, but this year we decided to announce a competition for the place. We wanted to make this opportunity available to all the students at the Faculty of Science and Technology”, says Maria Råken, manager of MISC at UiS(University of Stavanger).

Challenges on Mars

The students who took part in the competition were asked to write an essay on how they would solve one of the three biggest challenges of sending people to Mars:

  • Producing food and water
  • Protection from the cold
  • Protection from radiation

Utilising craters

This year’s finalists were Daniel Førland Holmen, who is studying mathematics and physics, Vegard Valberg, who is completing a master’s in offshore technology, and IT student Erik Sandal. The latter chose to study radiation, which would be fatal for anyone trying to live on the Red Planet, and also harm the equipment they would need to have.

“My suggestion is to utilise the enormous meteor craters on Mars. The astronauts could build a dome and dig tunnels into the walls of the craters where people can live. Five metres of soil should be enough to provide insulation against radiation”, says Sandal.

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