Columbia Space Initiative Inspires New Generation Students on Space Flight and Technology


(NEW YORK)–At Columbia University a whole new crop of students are being inspired to reach for the stars through a campus organization focused on space, space technology, and potentially even future space flight itself.

We had the pleasure to briefly visit with Columbia Space Initiative (CSI) at their first meeting of semester where students who have a keen interest in space, and space flight, meet to share ideas, and even collaborate with actual space missions.

The Columbia Space Initiative (CSI), headed by faculty advisers Professor Ioannis Kymissis and former Astronaut Professor Mike Massimino, is a student space technology and outreach club founded on September 27, 2015. It serves as an umbrella organization for mission teams involved in everything from nanosatellite mechanical design to hosting space policy forums.

Mike Massimino teaches and advises research at Columbia in spaceflight topics including human factors, robotics, extra-vehicular activity (spacewalking), displays and controls, and planetary exploration. He served as a NASA Astronaut from 1996-2014, flying in space twice and walking in space four times for the final two Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions.

Since Columbia does not offer an aerospace program, CSI offers the only opportunity, as of now, for students to pursue or discover their interests in space technology and outreach.

What Columbia does offer though is excellent engineering and computer science programs, which provides valuable skills that have helped CSI members succeed during their internships at such places as Boeing, SpaceX, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center.

CSI launches First Payload into Space

If you think these may be just a bunch of college space geeks, like we all are, you could not be so wrong. These students have put their knowledge and skills to the test by launching their first payload into low earth orbit through collaboration with Blue Origin’s.

On Dec. 11, 2019, the Zero-G Division’s successfully launched a scientific payload on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket. With the rocket’s altitude reaching nearly 100 kilometers, the experiment traveled beyond the Karman Line, the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

Headed by mission leaders Nathalie Hager (Computer Science) and Luke D’Cruz (Mechanical Engineering) their project spent around 4 minutes in this microgravity environment, providing an exciting opportunity to conduct a scientific experiment.

It was a real pleasure meeting this team dedicated to space and space technologies, and as a person focused on data and uses of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) we hope to have future interviews with these exceptional crew on current and future space mission projects in 2020.

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