Manhattan Excessive College sophomore Julius Neumann desires to wash up area.
Neumann, 15, received first place in the highschool division on the Kansas State Science Truthful in March for his challenge involving area junk. He mentioned thousands and thousands of items of area particles are orbiting Earth proper now, starting from inactive satellites and rocket our bodies the scale of college buses.
“There’s even instruments left behind by astronauts, and tiny particles of mud,” Neumann mentioned. “Every bit is touring at greater than 7 kilometers per second — 10 instances the velocity of a bullet.”
Neumann mentioned area particles poses a hazard for different spacecraft orbiting the Earth, such because the Worldwide House Station. He mentioned the movie “Gravity” impressed him to deal with this challenge, because the plot of the film focuses on a catastrophe involving a collision with area junk. He mentioned the collision velocity and impression is so highly effective, junk would immediately destroy any satellite tv for pc or spacecraft, creating hundreds of recent fragments of area junk. He mentioned the potential for collisions is rising as extra junk finally ends up orbiting the planet.
“House junk is a large menace, not solely to any crafts in orbit across the Earth, but in addition to satellite-based companies right here on the bottom,” Neumann mentioned.
Neumann mentioned one might use the analogy of an interstate freeway to elucidate the hazard of area particles.
“You may think about all these automobiles on the interstate which are damaged down, however not standing nonetheless; they’re all shifting towards you on the identical velocity you’re shifting,” Neumann mentioned. “There are tremendous excessive velocities up in area and in orbit.”
Neumann sought to discover a new methodology for cleansing up area junk that makes use of the Earth’s ambiance and a little bit of physics. He mentioned his thought was for a spacecraft to gather chunks of area particles and jettison that particles into the ambiance, inflicting it to expend and disintegrate whereas saving rocket gasoline.
“The benefits are the spacecraft can keep in orbit and clear up extra particles, and whereas it throws that junk into the ambiance, it is going to be propelled in the other way,” Neumann mentioned. “I needed to search out out if a craft might carry out these arbitrary orbit adjustments whereas gathering junk.”
Neumann mentioned he created a pc simulation to check his idea, and it really works.
“It’s certainly attainable to boost and decrease the orbit of the spacecraft by throwing particles into the ambiance,” Neumann mentioned.
Neumann mentioned he needed to calculate the orbit of the spacecraft and a satellite tv for pc, basing his work on traditional mechanics like Newton’s legal guidelines of movement and the conservation of momentum.
“I realized so much about orbital mechanics and rocket science within the means of doing this challenge,” Neumann mentioned. “I derived loads of the equations myself, like for preliminary orbit velocity.”
Neumann mentioned he might have seemed up the required equations, however he needed to see how the mathematics labored for himself, so he experimented with completely different equations.
“I actually like math and physics,” Neumann mentioned. “I had loads of enjoyable deriving the equations.”
Neumann’s father, Titus Neumann, mentioned one time they have been on a flight again from Germany, and for a lot of the flight residence, Julius was doing math issues.
“He should’ve been in first or second grade on the time,” Titus mentioned. “He was simply doing them for enjoyable, that was his in-flight leisure.”
Titus, who’s initially from Germany, mentioned the household moved to Manhattan from California when Julius was 3. Titus mentioned his son has been all for science-related topics since he was younger.
“He was so enthusiastic about mainly all the pieces science that he does all of this by himself,” Titus mentioned. “No trainer wants to inform him to do it.”
Along with his first-place win, Neumann obtained the NASA Earth Science System Award.
He mentioned the occasion often consists of him making a poster and driving to Wichita to current his challenge in entrance of a panel of judges. This yr’s science truthful was digital due to the pandemic. Neumann made a PowerPoint presentation and recorded a number of movies of him reporting on his findings and answering questions.
“I’m nonetheless blissful there was a science truthful in any respect; final yr all the pieces acquired canceled,” Neumann mentioned.
Titus mentioned he remembers the thrill across the Apollo area missions of the Sixties and ’70s.
“By some means I feel that pleasure for area has gotten misplaced over the a long time,” he mentioned. “Science funding will get minimize on a regular basis, too, particularly during the last couple of years. … It will be good if the appreciation for science can be stronger.”