Might 4—Manhattan Excessive Faculty sophomore Julius Neumann desires to scrub up house.
Neumann, 15, received first place in the highschool division on the Kansas State Science Truthful in March for his challenge involving house junk. He mentioned tens of millions of items of house particles are orbiting Earth proper now, starting from inactive satellites and rocket our bodies the scale of faculty buses.
“There’s even instruments left behind by astronauts, and tiny particles of mud,” Neumann mentioned. “Each bit is touring at greater than 7 kilometers per second — 10 instances the velocity of a bullet.”
Neumann mentioned house particles poses a hazard for different spacecraft orbiting the Earth, such because the Worldwide House Station. He mentioned the movie “Gravity” impressed him to sort out this challenge, because the plot of the film focuses on a catastrophe involving a collision with house 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 latest fragments of house junk. He mentioned the potential for collisions is growing as extra junk finally ends up orbiting the planet.
“House junk is a big menace, not solely to any crafts in orbit across the Earth, but additionally to satellite-based providers right here on the bottom,” Neumann mentioned.
Neumann mentioned one may use the analogy of an interstate freeway to elucidate the hazard of house particles.
“You may think about all these vehicles on the interstate which are damaged down, however not standing nonetheless; they’re all shifting towards you on the identical velocity you are shifting,” Neumann mentioned. “There are tremendous excessive velocities up in house and in orbit.”
Neumann sought to discover a new methodology for cleansing up house junk that makes use of the Earth’s ambiance and a little bit of physics. He mentioned his concept was for a spacecraft to gather chunks of house particles and jettison that particles into the ambiance, inflicting it to expend and disintegrate whereas saving rocket gas.
“The benefits are the spacecraft can keep in orbit and clear up extra particles, and whereas it throws that junk into the ambiance, it will likely be propelled in the other way,” Neumann mentioned. “I needed to seek out out if a craft may carry out these arbitrary orbit adjustments whereas amassing junk.”
Neumann mentioned he created a pc simulation to check his concept, and it really works.
“It’s certainly doable to lift 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 basic mechanics like Newton’s legal guidelines of movement and the conservation of momentum.
“I realized lots about orbital mechanics and rocket science within the means of doing this challenge,” Neumann mentioned. “I derived lots of the equations myself, like for preliminary orbit velocity.”
Neumann mentioned he may have regarded 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 lots of enjoyable deriving the equations.”
Neumann’s father, Titus Neumann, mentioned one time they had been on a flight again from Germany, and for many of the flight dwelling, 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 thinking about science-related topics since he was younger.
“He was so enthusiastic about mainly every thing science that he does all of this by himself,” Titus mentioned. “No instructor 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 normally consists of him making a poster and driving to Wichita to current his challenge in entrance of a panel of judges. This 12 months’s science honest 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 am nonetheless completely satisfied there was a science honest in any respect; final 12 months every thing bought canceled,” Neumann mentioned.
Titus mentioned he remembers the thrill across the Apollo house missions of the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s.
“By some means I feel that pleasure for house has gotten misplaced over the a long time,” he mentioned. “Science funding will get lower on a regular basis, too, particularly over the past couple of years. … It could be good if the appreciation for science can be stronger.”