The National Space Society invites you to the next Space Forum

Thursday, May 2, 2024, 9:00 pm to 10:15 pm EDT

From Campus to the Cosmos: The EagleCam Adventure

Vikas Patel
Undergraduate Student
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
2023 Astronaut Scholar  

Join us for an informative space forum to learn about an ambitious student-led project aiming to capture the first lunar landing selfie. In 2019, Intuitive Machines (IM) co-founder and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) alumnus Steve Altemus challenged ERAU students to engineer this out-of-this-world selfie. It was a challenge eagerly accepted by both students and faculty alike. The result? The EagleCam, a student-built satellite camera designed to capture the first-ever third-person images of a spacecraft landing on the Moon. EagleCam flew aboard IM’s Nova-C lunar lander named Odysseus, which successfully touched down on the Moon on February 24.

The goal was for the EagleCam to be ejected from Odysseus about 30 meters above the Moon’s surface, free-fall to the lunar surface, and then capture the lander’s descent and touchdown. However, due to last-minute complications with the lander, the decision was made to keep the EagleCam attached to the lander during the landing. While the EagleCam did successfully land on the Moon, it unfortunately was unable to capture the images as intended.

EagleCam was designed and built by ERAU students, ranging from first-year undergraduates to doctoral candidates, under the guidance of faculty advisors. Vikas Patel, an aerospace engineering student and one of the team leaders will be sharing his perspective on this historic project. Vikas will discuss the design efforts as well as how the students monitored the flight from their own mission control. The ERAU students’ work also garnered the attention of Jared Isaacman, who will command the upcoming Polaris Dawn mission. This student team is currently working on project LLAMAS (Literally Looking At More Astronauts in Space), a camera that will capture the first civilian extravehicular activity (EVA) on the Polaris Dawn mission later this year. Vikas will describe the project and provide an update on the current progress. Don’t miss this exciting space forum and register today!

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Vikas Patel, a Jacksonville, Florida, native, has excelled both on and off of Embry‑Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus. He is currently pursuing his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering with an anticipated graduation date of December 2024. During the summer of 2023, he worked as a flight simulation intern at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, California, and in the summer of 2022, he was an engineering intern with the U.S. Navy at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

On campus, he served as the lead flight test engineer for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ (AIAA) Design Build Fly international engineering competition, helping the team win top honors. He has also conducted research in the Space Technologies Lab at Embry‑Riddle where he was on the design team for the EagleCam, which flew on Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus spacecraft which landed on the Moon in Feb. He is now leading battery testing for the LLAMAS project, which is a camera system that aims to capture images and video of the first commercial spacewalk planned for the Polaris Dawn mission.

Vikas, an NSS student member was selected as a 2023 Astronaut Scholar by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, one of 68 scholars from 46 universities across the nation awarded a $15,000 scholarship. Vikas plans to continue to graduate school and focus his research in the areas of guidance navigation control or launch operations. He also has his student pilot’s license and hopes to continue his flight training part-time, while in school. His ultimate goal is joining the astronaut program and conducting research in space.

Register today to reserve your seat and ask your questions. Use the link below.

Register no later than May 2 at 8 pm EST

Past NSS Space Forums and Town Halls may be viewed here.

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