NTU student looks on as his model NASA satellite launches into spaceJan 8th, 2014 | By dvandever | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive
As NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) launched into space for a 100-day scientific mission this past September, Jaron Edsitty, a digital manufacturing major at Navajo Technical University (NTU, Crownpoint, NM) watched in awe. Edsitty had spent the past two years modeling the satellite as a NASA intern.
Edsitty was assigned the project in 2011 through an internship with NASA’s Ames Research Center. The program required him to model a rough PDF file of the satellite utilizing reverse engineering software and machinery at NTU. “When he started out all he was given was a 3D PDF file of the satellite,” explained Gregory Dodge, Edsitty’s instructor and advisor at NTU. “It wasn’t much to work with, but Jaron was able to use Pro E software to create every component of the satellite from that single file.”
The satellite launch drew close to 1,500 guests, including astronauts Charlie Duke and John Grunsfeld who invited Edsitty to watch the launch with NASA Ames site director Dr. Pete Worden and other VIPs. “Many of the engineers and technicians that worked on the actual LADEE satellite were commending Jaron and Navajo Tech because they said it was the most accurate model anyone had ever created,” said Dodge. “It was a good experience for Jaron to interact in that setting, but it was also good for the school because people got to see what we’re capable of doing.”
Being able to work for an agency such as NASA was something Edsitty never thought he was capable of accomplishing. But after working on the LADEE satellite model, he realized that there’s so much more on the horizon. “This is something I never expected to be doing,” said Edsitty, who is from Window Rock, capital of the Navajo Nation. “One astronaut I met said that NASA has a job waiting for me once I graduate and it got me thinking about what I’m doing. I came to college to benefit my family and with work like this I’m making a positive influence on my daughter and my younger siblings.”
Through its Bachelor of Applied Science program, NTU has successfully placed a student for an internship at each of NASA’s sites throughout the country. The program has opened new doors and opportunities for Navajo students. “Seeing what one person can do can influence people and let them know that anything is possible,” remarked Edsitty. “It’s important to let them know that there’s more out there. That’s the main reason I went to school and that’s the main reason I try to excel.”