Cooperation scheme to be set up between NASA and BME researchers

NASA’s astrophysicist Kartik Sheth attended BME’s Space Forum and the conference organised by Károly Simonyi College for Advanced Studies.

“There are three major questions astrophysicists are concerned about: Are we alone in the universe? How have we got this far? How does the universe work?”, summarises NASA’s astrophysicist Kartik Sheth at the informal meeting organised by BME’s Space Forum. After the words of welcome delivered by László Jakab, the dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Informatics (VIK), Sheth was interviewed by Kálmán Kovács, director of VIK United Innovation and Knowledge Centre and head of BME’s Space Forum. Visiting Budapest at the invitation of the Károly Simonyi College for Advanced Studies, Sheth had a very busy schedule to complete: first he attended a space workshops operating at the faculty, then he delivered a presentation in the framework of the event entitled Simonyi Days focusing on his research activities at NASA.

At the discussion organised by the university’s Space Forum, he elaborated on the structural organisation of NASA, introduced the most remarkable projects they are currently running, and outlined a few potential cooperation opportunities between NASA and BME. In his capacity as a physicist working for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, he described the four major units (Earth Science, Planetary Science, Heliophysics and Astrophysics) operating at his institution highlighting the fourth one, his own unit. The division of astrophysics focuses on exploring the origin, structure, evolution, and destiny of the universe; searches for exoplanets and works towards finding answers to the four basic questions raised above. NASA bases its vision on longstanding ambitions: the current projects are relying on devices such as the Hubble or the Spitzer Space Telescope devised several decades ago. NASA’s premier observatory of the next decade will be the James Webb Space Telescope, due for launch in 2018 and replacing the outdated Hubble. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), another NASA project, is a two-year survey mission that will focus on the discovery of exoplanets.

Kartik Sheth currently works as a program scientist of the SOFIA project (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) that uses a highly modified Boeing 747SP aircraft whose 100-inch (2.5 meter) diameter infrared telescope collects invaluable data from the sky almost every night. Sheth emphasized the necessity and significance of international cooperation in areas such as air traffic management and air traffic safety, and talked about education programs that provide opportunities for international students of all age groups that deal with a wide range of issues including global challenges with focus on more specific problems such as global warming. He hailed BME’s Cubesat research as very promising and said that Hungarian students and researchers were welcome to join NASA programmes in different fields including Big Data, astrobiology and balloon research.

Kálmán Kovács highlighted that in the past working with NASA was full of stumbling blocks and small enterprises got better opportunities than large institutions. To launch the newly developed space engineering program at BME, however, the university needs solid partners. BME’s recently granted full-fledged membership of the European Space Agency (ESA) makes it possible to establish closer relations not only with NASA but also with countries (such as China or India) playing an increasingly prominent role in space research.

The Hungarian parties introduced two volumes, one entitled “The Handbook of Space Activities at BME 2017” and another referred to as “Hungarian Space Catalogue”. They also outlined the latest achievements of REXUS/BEXUS, a European cooperation scheme for student experiments on rockets and balloons.

At the Simonyi Conference, Kartik Sheth described his two key fields of research: galaxy evolution and Trojan asteroids, and told the audience about NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and its recent fantastic discovery of the seven Earth-size exoplanets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, an ultra-cool red dwarf star. He also addressed one of the key issues of astrophysics: Are we alone in the universe? (Editor's note: the presentation can be viewed on the BSS website.)

At the 14th Simonyi Conference, a great number of national and international speakers presented the results of their research activities and/or introduced their technological innovations.

The event, held at BME’s Building “I”, was attended by several other important guests besides Kartik Sheth including Paul Verhoef, the representative of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Director of the Galileo Program who highlighted the greatest results and potential services of their satellite navigation system.

Amrita Gangotra, Technology Director at Vodafone Hungary, talked about some great challenges with fifth generation mobile systems (5G) with focus on new services such as applications for connected cars, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality.

István Komjád, CEO of Accenture and Dániel Nagy, senior engineer, talked about the applicability and potential advancement of AR in the automotive and aeronautics industry. Áron Tanos, representing Qualysoft, detailed the impacts exerted by 5G on our everyday life.

László Perneky, Team Leader of UX Engineer (User Experience) at NNG, described their own developments that could tackle multi-threaded, multi-process, multi-machine systems simply and effectively.

In his presentation, Balázs Csendes, Security Intelligence Leader at IBM, explored how cognitive technology may assist IT safety experts.

Illés Solt, from the National Cyber Security Institute, highlighted the importance of preparation against hackers threatening the safety of elections quoting an example of the 2016 referendum conducted in Hungary.

György Gergely Balázs, lecturer at the Department of Electric Power Engineering at VIK, reported about research aiming at the launching of environment-friendly and fully electronic hybrid drive systems in aircrafts. The teacher and regional head of R&D at VIK also described some other relevant scientific achievements of the field in Hungary.

On behalf of the Károly Simonyi College for Advanced Studies, Dávid Menyhárt-Radó, Anna Gujgiczer and Farkas Márton Elekes presented their papers written for the Students’ Scientific Conference (TDK).


Photo: Ildikó Takács, SPOT