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U of M's satellite off to contest in Ottawa

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THE University of Manitoba's rocket scientists are close to going where no Bison has gone before.

More than 100 students across five faculties have been working for the last three years on building a satellite. They're off to Ottawa this weekend -- by conventional means -- as one of three university finalists in a Canadian Space Agency competition to design a satellite for launch into orbit.

"This is classified as a nano-satellite," computer engineering graduate student Dario Schor said Thursday.

The UMBUG satellite -- University of Manitoba Biology Unimpeded by Gravity -- is 10 centimetres by 10 cm by 30 cm, and weighs four kilograms.

Yes, it's small. "We're talking about a very dense two-litre milk carton," he said.

It's big enough for two experiments.

In one, micro-organisms called tardigrades will be fed, watered and exposed to radiation to see if they can reproduce, an experiment designed to expand our knowledge of survival in space.

"It's pushing the limits -- no one's tried biological experiments in satellites that small," said Schor, a graduate of Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate. "When you look at them under the microscope, they look like bears, but with eight arms."

The micro-organisms will be studied after they return to Earth.

Um, you boffins are familiar with The Andromeda Strain, right?

A second experiment will conduct a spectrographic analysis of the sun from orbit. Others such as NASA do similar experiments, but, "The goal is to see if we can do it on a smaller scale," said Schor.

The CSA will announce the winner Sept. 29, the 50th anniversary of the launching of Canada's first satellite.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2012 A8

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