Posts Tagged ‘nasa’

Fairfield learns about mission to Mars from Dane Elsa Jensen, MSSS mission operations manager

April 25, 2013

Fairfield learns about mission to Mars

By ANDY HALLMAN | Apr 24, 2013

Elsa Jensen holds a photograph of “Curiosity,” NASA’s rover that is studying and photographing Mars. Jensen helped develop Curiosity’s cameras, which she spoke about April 13 at the Argiro Student Center on the campus of Maharishi University of Management.

Elsa Jensen holds a photograph of “Curiosity,” NASA’s rover that is studying and photographing Mars. Jensen helped develop Curiosity’s cameras, which she spoke about April 13 at the Argiro Student Center on the campus of Maharishi University of Management.

A woman who helped design the cameras that have taken photographs on Mars spoke to a few hundred people April 13 at the Argiro Student Center at Maharishi University of Management.

Elsa Jensen is the mission operations manager for Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. She helped develop the science cameras on NASA’s Mars rover, “Curiosity.”

Jensen was born and raised in Denmark. She has had an interest in space exploration as long as she can remember. She spoke about how entering the space program seemed like an unrealistic goal in her youth, and she assumed she would have to find another outlet for her passion.

A schoolteacher once asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She told him she wanted to go to space, but she added she knew little girls from Denmark don’t go to space.

“Why not?” the teacher responded, and with that Jensen embarked on a quest to fulfill her dream.

NASA launched the Curiosity rover from Earth in November 2011 and landed it on Mars in August 2012. The rover is a robot that is controlled from Earth. It can move on wheels, take photographs and collect data about Mars’s climate and geology by analyzing the chemical composition of rocks on the planet.

Jensen said people in the audience were probably curious why NASA sent a rover to Mars.

“We wanted to explore,” she said. “We wanted to reach farther than mankind has ever reached before.”

The rover’s intended destination was a crater in the middle of a mountain. This site was chosen because it would be the most interesting scientifically since the rover could study multiple layers of sediment in a small area. It is tasked with finding out if Mars could have supported life at one time.

Jensen said the camera her company designed for Mars takes photographs in red, green and blue pixels, just as many cameras do on Earth. She said the photographs on Mars appear comparable to those taken with a 2-megapixel camera.

Curiosity has a camera on an arm which it can extend 6 feet. The rover took a series of pictures of itself with its arm extended. Jensen and her crew pieced those photos together to get a self-portrait of Curiosity without its arm in the picture, making it appear someone or something else took the photo.

Jensen’s work with the rover has produced a few stressful situations, none more stressful than what has been dubbed the “seven minutes of terror.” That is the length of time between Curiosity’s entry into the Martian atmosphere and when it touched down. That was when Curiosity was most likely to crash.

The first problem Curiosity encountered was the heat. Curiosity descended to the Martian surface in a protective heat shell because the friction of traveling through the atmosphere produced a temperature of 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

The other problem Curiosity faced was speed. The spacecraft was traveling 13,000 miles per hour upon entering the atmosphere. A parachute slowed the craft down to 200 miles per hour. Once Curiosity was two kilometers above the surface, it released its parachute and turned on a jetpack on its bottom side that allowed it to gradually descend. As it approached 20 meters above the surface, the rover itself was lowered on a tether from its jetpack so it did not land in the middle of the dust storm the jetpack had created.

Jensen not only told the audience about Curiosity’s descent but actually showed a video of it from the Mars Orbiter, an orbiting satellite 400 miles above the surface.

Jensen and her team members work according to Martian time instead of Earth time so they can be at their posts when the rover and orbiter are sending information back to Earth. A Martian day is slightly longer than an Earth day at 24 hours and 40 minutes.

NASA has made exciting discoveries about Mars because of Curiosity. Jensen said the rover has found key chemical ingredients such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorous and sulfur.

“The mineralogy indicates a long interaction with liquid water,” she said.

Jensen said she was able to manage the stress of her job through Transcendental Meditation, which she learned a week before Curiosity landed on Mars.

Published with permission from The Fairfield Ledger.

Two years later a former Computer Science MUM faculty member would make the top 100 cut for a trip to Mars! Read the Des Moines Register cover story: Former Iowan among finalists for Mars trip.

Maharishi University Students Win National Collegiate Hackathon Competition, Visit Silicon Valley High Tech Companies

March 9, 2013

Fairfield, Iowa: Maharishi University Computer Science students were among 10 finalists in a national collegiate hackathon competition to win a trip to Silicon Valley. During their visit they met with high tech leaders from 15 companies.

Hackathons are growing in popularity. Companies like Facebook, Google, and now the White House have employed this strategy to come up with innovative software solutions to problems. Last month a company called HackerRank announced a national collegiate computer-programming competition. Over 400 students from the nation’s top schools participated in the hackathon. Contestants were given 24 hours to complete six challenges. Some of the high tech companies sponsoring the competition were Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Dropbox.

MUM students Khongor Enkhbold and Khasan Bold were among top ten finalistsin a National Collegiate Hackathon Competition who won a trip to Silicon Valley

MUM students Khasan Bold and Khongor Enkhbold were two of the top ten finalists in a National Collegiate Hackathon Competition to visit Silicon Valley

Two students from Maharishi University of Management’s Masters in Computer Science program went up against students from tech titans Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, Princeton, Purdue, MIT, University of California-Berkeley, and both made it into the top ten. Khongor Enkhbold placed 5th and Khasan Bold, 7th. The top ten final positions were: 3 from Berkeley, 2 each from Harvard and MUM, and 1 each from UCLA, Purdue, and Nebraska.

All finalists earned an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley where they met with tech professionals from 15 top companies. They had to sign nondisclosure agreements before entering each company and were not allowed to take any pictures because of work posted on the walls.

“We visited about 15 companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Palantir, Rocket Fuel, OpenTable, Dropbox and others,” said Khasan Bold. “We saw Mark Zuckerberg and also met with D’Angelo, the CEO and the founder of Quora.”

When they visited LinkedIn they noticed their neighbors, Google and NASA. Khasan remarked on “one cool thing—Google supports the entire city of Mountain View with Wi-Fi. That means we could have accessed Google’s Wi-Fi from anywhere in town!”

He noted that almost every company they visited provided many games for their employees to play like PlayStation, Foosball, Ping Pong, Billiards, as well as a lot of free food and drinks.

Khongor Enkhbold at Twitter headquarters. Note the logoed lawn game and color-coordinated deck furniture.

Khasan Bold at Twitter headquarters. Note the logoed lawn game and color-coordinated deck furniture.

They also took time to speak with employees at Twitter. Khasan said the trip gave him a “real quick screenshot of the top US IT companies” and hopes it will help him find his future job here in the US.

Khongor and Khasan have won computer-programming competitions before. In 2010 they were on a 3-person team that took the championship cup for all of Mongolia. In 2009, they won bronze medals in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Competition, sponsored by IBM, in the Asian region in Shanghai, China. In 2010 and 2011, Khongor also won bronze and silver medals with different teammates at the same venue. When asked why they compete in these events, Khongor replied, “We don’t compete because we need to… We compete because we love to!”

Khonger Enkhbold and Khasan Bold have their picture taken by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge during their trip to high-tech companies.

Khasan Bold and Khongor Enkhbold by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge during their trip to Silicon Valley’s high-tech companies.

Khasan and Khongor heard about Maharishi University from their friends. They applied to the MS in Computer Science because of the unique opportunity MUM affords its students in gaining practical IT experience with high-level US companies, as well as the cutting-edge curriculum offered by the University’s top faculty. They also found Fairfield, Iowa to be a peaceful, creative city making it an ideal place to study.

Founded in 1971, Maharishi University of Management (MUM) is a unique private institution that offers Consciousness-Based℠ Education, a traditional academic curriculum enhanced with self-development programs like the Transcendental Meditation® technique. Students are encouraged to follow a more sustainable routine of study, socializing and rest without the typical college burnout. All aspects of campus life nourish the body and mind, including organic vegetarian meals served fresh daily. Located in Fairfield, Iowa, MUM is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the arts, sciences, humanities, and business. Visitors Weekends are held throughout the year. For more information, call the Admissions Office at 800-369-6480 or visit

PRWeb press release posted March 09, 2013, 9:40 a.m. CST: MUM Computer Science Students Win National Collegiate Hackathon Competition and Trip to Silicon Valley.

For more information on Khasan and Khongor, see the Computer Professionals Newsletter announcing their win.

See Maharishi University Computer Science Students Continue to Solve Problems and Win Competitions.

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