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01-10-2005

Clarkson Student Invited To Present Interstellar Space Travel Concept To Nasa Fellows At National Meeting In March

[A photograph for newspaper use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/mars.jpg] 

Andrew T. Bingham of Enosburg Falls, Vt., a sophomore mechanical and aeronautical engineering major at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., has been invited to be a guest speaker at a March meeting of the Fellows of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Institute (NIAC) in Atlanta. mars

Bingham will deliver a half hour PowerPoint presentation of an idea he developed to advance 21st century interstellar space exploration as part of the NASA NIAC-sponsored Student Visions of the Future competition. The competition invites students from around the country to submit revolutionary designs and concepts that have a potential for expanding the vision of NASA’s long-range strategic plans.

For his idea submission, “Deployment of an Interstellar Electromagnetic Acceleration System,” Bingham received a cash prize and traveled to Seattle in October to join other student finalists for poster presentations at an NIAC meeting. At the competition, judges reviewed students’ concepts for further development by NASA. Out of six groups of students, Bingham was the only student asked to the spring NIAC Fellows meeting to make a formal presentation. 

Bingham’s proposal uses an external propulsion system that would take advantage of intense magnetic fields acting on the spacecraft from the outside. His system uses a series of unmanned space stations placed in planetary orbits that, in effect, become electromagnetic slingshots for the interstellar probes. 

“The electromagnetic principles behind Andrew’s proposal are not new,” explained David Craig, Clarkson professor of Humanities and director of the Honors Program of which Bingham is a member. “They are derivations from Maxwell’s Equations that are over 100 years old. But his application of them to power deep space probes is revolutionary. The technological breakthroughs needed to achieve Andrew’s vision are exciting, challenging and energizing; they partake of the dreams and drives that have fueled space exploration since its earliest days.” 

Over the recent holiday break, Bingham participated in a crew rotation of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), from December 18 to January 2. The MDRS is sponsored by The Mars Society, a private organization that works to further the goal of the exploration and settlement of Mars. As a member of Crew 31, Bingham volunteered to live in a simulated Mars habitat module, located in the Utah desert, where he performed research and other daily tasks as if the station were actually located on Mars. These tasks included limiting consumption of expendable resources (such as food, water, and fuel), living in a limited interior environment, and wearing a space suit when leaving the module.  Biological and geological investigations of the surrounding area were also conducted as a part of the crew’s Mars analogue research program.  

Bingham is a member of the Honors Program at Clarkson. He maintains a 4.0 average and was selected as a Presidential Scholar for both semesters of his freshman year. 

PHOTO CAPTION:  Wearing a space suit, Clarkson University student Andrew T. Bingham surveys the Martian landscape outside the Mars Desert Research Station, a simulated Mars habitat module located in the Utah desert that is sponsored by the Mars Society. Bingham, whose interest in space dates back to his early childhood, recently spent two weeks at the Research Station as a crew member and researcher. Now, as a winner of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC)-sponsored Student Visions of the Future national competition,  Bingham will travel to Atlanta in March to give a presentation “Deployment of an Interstellar Electromagnetic Acceleration System,” to NIAC Fellows. 
[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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