Four students from MIT, including Chloe Gentgen (AeroAstro), Rebecca Jiang (AeroAstro), Palak Patel (MechE), and Jessica Todd (AeroAstro), were among 32 students selected from a pool of 900 applicants to participate in the Caltech Space Challenge 2022. This year’s week-long space mission challenge was to design a sample return mission to Titan under the mentorship of experts from industry, NASA, and academia. Gentgen and Jiang were on Team Explorer while Patel and Todd were a part of Team Voyager, Caltech Space Challenge’s winning team.
The Caltech Space Challenge 2022 mission included a sample return in addition to in-situ measurements to enable a detailed analysis of the samples. Participants decided how to collect the sample and how to safely contain it for their ascent from Titan and the return journey back to Earth. To design the optimal mission concept, the students worked on questions such as orbital trajectory, power management, communication, sample integrity, and economic feasibility. Although the mission itself focused on Titan, many of the concepts examined applied to space exploration as a whole.