Broadcast 2893 Dr. Anita Sengupta

31 Mar 2017 Dr. Anita Sengupta
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Guest:  Dr. Anita Sengupta; Topics:  Our discussion topics including Mars exploration & upcoming missions, the Cold Atom Lab, ISS, astrophysics, & women in engineering.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding specific Space Show programs & guest(s) to the Space Show blog which is part of archived program on our website, www.thespaceshow.com.   Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  

We welcomed Dr. Anita Sengupta back to the show for a 68 minute discussion focusing on Mars exploration, the Cold Atom Lab, lasers, ISS, astrophysics, and women in engineering.  During the first part of our one segment discussion, we started off talking about upcoming Mars missions and advances in MARS EDL since Curiosity.  Dr. Sengupta talked about solving problems regarding landing large payloads on Mars and the work being done at JPL and with others on retropropulsion.  We talked about both the pace of research and the progress being made.  Our received a listener question asking if the NASA research was made available to start-up companies and small entrepreneurial organizations or only to mainstream aerospace companies.  Dr. Sengupta made several suggestions as to how people could access this information and cutting edge research.

Out next topic was the Cold Atom Lab (CAL) which is due to be launched to the ISS in August of this year.  You can learn more about CAL at their website, https://coldatomlab.jpl.nasa.gov.  In addition, you can watch the 90 minute YouTube presentation on CAL reference during our discussion with our guest. This video can be found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=migjdcm6PSE.  We spent a good portion of our discussion talking about CAL, lasers, the project physics, the multiple experiments to be done, and the all important environment for AL which needs to be vibration free (much was said about this during the program).  Dr. Sengupta explained the need for the ultra cold environment plus she went through the physics behind the CAL and the upcoming experiments.  For those of you without a solid physics background, be sure to watch the YouTube video posted above and read about the project on the CAL website.  Dr. Sengupta discussed the •Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC) in a space environment throughout our discussion and as you will hear, several email questions asked her for more details in this areal. 

Anita was asked about the science experiments which she discussed during the show along with the background of the people involved in doing the experiments.  To further your understanding of this part of our discussion, this is what the CAL website says about the experiments:

"The CAL science mission objectives are derived from the microgravity decadal survey. CAL utilizes the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) to form, create, and study ultra-cold quantum gases. CAL will be a technology and science pathfinder mission with the first ever demonstration of the following areas:

•Laser cooling of Rubidium (Rb) in a space environment

•Laser cooling of Potassium (K) in any microgravity environment

•Dual species laser cooling in a space environment

•Magnetic trapping in a space environment

•Evaporative cooling in a space environment

•Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC) in a space environment

•Degenerate Fermi gas in any microgravity environment

•Dual species degenerate gases, both Bose-Bose and Bose-Fermi in any microgravity environment

•Delta-kick Cooling to temperatures below 100 pK

•Interaction times greater than 5 seconds

•Atom interferometry in a space environment"

Our guest elaborated on most of these experiments and objectives.  Anita made the case for the experiments to be on the ISS or a space station as compared to other possible on Earth or in space venues.  This prompted a few questions including one from Jason asking about being able to do this type of research on private space stations should they come into existence.  Other questions dealt with power requirements, needed crew time, managing vibrations, and other issues.  Later, one of the questions asked by B John focused on possible commercial uses for this work plus being able to work on a quantum computer given the CAL super cold environment.  Questions were also asked about plans for this type of experimentation to continue should the ISS actually be deorbited in the early to mid 2020's.

Additional topics for today's program included missions to Venus and Europa along with the continued study and search for exoplanets.  Tom from Seattle made a second call to the show to ask about deep space relay satellites to facilitate deep space communications.  Our guest had much to say about this topic.  B John then sent in a question dealing with artificial gravity and a possible on orbit centrifuge.  He wondered about possible vibrations that might stop or interfere with CAL type experiments.  Don't miss what our guest said in response to these questions.

Anita talked about women in the engineering fields.  She said the numbers were low, about 25% of all students in the various engineering disciplines.  She offered suggestions on how to increase those numbers including the need for many more women engineering role models.  Let us know your suggestions on our blog for this program.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show.  You can reach Dr. Sengupta through me or her JPL page.  

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Cold Atom Lab update