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Edinboro Geosciences Professor David Hurd attends NASA MAVEN launch event


Dr. David Hurd, professor of Geosciences and planetarium director at Edinboro University, was invited by NASA to attend the launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which launched Nov. 18 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Hurd was also on hand at the public events leading up to the launch to help enlighten the public on the mission as well as share copies of his tactile books, “Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters” and “Mars Science Laboratory.” Written by Hurd with support from NASA headquarters and NASA’s Lunar Science Institute, “Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters” is a primer on lunar cratering geared for blind and visually impaired students. “Mars Science Laboratory” highlights the current mission on Mars as well as MAVEN.

“NASA takes their role of providing the wonders of science to all learners very seriously and has taken an active role in providing mission highlights to students with disabilities,” Hurd said.

Hurd has dedicated the last 15 years to producing and implementing tactile astronomy materials for the blind and has facilitated workshops on teaching astronomy to the visually impaired. He has produced products for NASA that have helped bridge the gap between the research community and special needs students.

Hurd's work has provided opportunities for him to be involved in many different NASA missions and launches, including shuttle launches and even the Mars Curiosity Rover mission that landed just over a year ago and is currently exploring the planet.

This is Hurd’s second launch presence this year.  In September, he was witness to the launch of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), which is currently analyzing the tenuous atmosphere of the moon. “It was truly an amazing experience, as this was my first chance to observe a night launch.  It really lit up the sky,” Hurd said of LADEE. 

MAVEN, too, is analyzing atmosphere, but of another solar system object -- Mars.

“All launches are really exciting to witness, but MAVEN was really special as I had a really good vantage point from the fifth floor of one of the KSC operations buildings with a great view of the Vehicle Assembly Building on one side and Lunch Complex 41, loaded with MAVEN, on the other,” Hurd said.

It will take MAVEN about 10 months to get to Mars; the vessel is expected to enter the atmosphere of Mars on Sept. 22, 2014.  MAVEN will explore the red planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. After the mission is complete, MAVEN will serve as another communication link to Earth for the Curiosity rover and future robotic missions.