PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Villanova electrical engineering grad student is leading a team into the finals of a NASA competition to find ideas from college students for developing a Mars expedition crew capsule.
Nicholas Florio, a Long Island native, directs the team of students he recruited from Villanova, Drexel and Rutgers.
"Our specific task is to design a vehicle that is able to take the crew safely from off the surface and then into Mars orbit, where then it will dock with an Earth Return Vehicle," he said. "So then once it docks with the Earth Return Vehicle, then our astronauts will be happily traveling back to Earth to share what they learned and what they saw."
Florio said the group decided not to reinvent the wheel when it came to its design. He said they used the concepts behind the lunar module NASA used for the moon landings as a baseline.
"If you know what the Apollo lander looks like, it's sort of a spinoff of that, because I think NASA did a great job with nailing down that generic design right away," Florio explained. "You can kind of think of it as a mash-up of the original Apollo lunar lander, but a little bit more slimmer."
He said it also resembles a ball shape with cylindrical tanks surrounding it. Underneath it, there are five rocket engines.
Florio said his team has various subgroups still working on a host of technical issues.
He said they're also preparing documentation and a video supporting their vision for the spacecraft.
Because of COVID-19, all of that will be delivered during a live-streamed presentation in mid-June to NASA engineers and officials from private space-related companies.
As to his own future in space, Florio said he's already secured a job with Lockheed Martin's military space division and will launch his career there in July.