Mars rovers and space junk

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Lee Jasper

Graduate
PhD
Aerospace Engineering Sciences

During his senior year in the aerospace engineering program at CU-Boulder, Lee Jasper was part of a team of students that partnered with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on development of a “mother-daughter” rover concept, a platform for the future exploration of Mars that included a “mother” base ship and two explorer vehicles known as “daughters.”

The student project led to an internship at JPL last summer, during which Lee got to work on the system engineering for a Mars rover planned for launch in late 2011.

“It has been really amazing to work with the people at JPL,” Lee says. “I continually cross paths with people who have landed rovers on Mars and sent satellites to Saturn, asteroids, and basically every major body in our solar system. The unique engineering and scientific knowledge base here is incredible.”

Lee’s primary role on the project, known as the Mars Science Laboratory, entailed identifying the flight rules needed to govern the rover’s operations during its launch, cruise, and approach to Mars. He also helped to ensure that the flight rules were properly executed in software and mission procedures.

After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at CU-Boulder, Lee decided to continue on at CU for his PhD to learn more about astrodynamics, the physical laws that govern the motion of objects in space.

He is particularly interested in space debris – the collection of objects or “junk” that continues to orbit the Earth even though it no longer serves any useful purpose. Ranging from rocket fragments to defunct satellites, space debris creates a potential collision risk to operational spacecraft, which is why Lee is assessing active debris-removal systems for his doctoral thesis.

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