Hypothesized Surface: Sample Return from Hypothesized Surfaces – RHIT-A


Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT)


Tungsten Class (2023 – 2024)


Kayla Martinez, Mechanical Engineering
Kiana Martin, Mechanical Engineering
Mandy Chick, BS Mechanical Engineering
Marisela Miranda, Mechanical Engineering


Dr. Ashley Bernal,
Dr. Cassie Bowman,
Dr. Matt Riley,
Dr. Shraddha Sangelkar


“Psyche Asteroid Sample Return”

Psyche is a metal-rich asteroid, currently orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Arizona State University oversees leading the mission to explore the asteroid. The first mission is in progress and launched in October of 2023 to explore the origin of the asteroid. In the future, scientists and engineers may propose a follow-on mission to return samples of the asteroid to Earth. Obtaining authentic samples will allow researchers to gain a better understanding of the surfaces of the asteroid. Our sample containment system could be utilized during this mission to preserve and protect the samples.

The goal of our senior capstone project a sealing system for collected samples from the Psyche asteroid. The final design must be a fully automated containment system that maintains integrity of samples from the asteroid. Most of the characteristics of Psyche are only hypothesized, such as material and surface texture. Therefore, we must consider the associated technical challenges with our design. Challenges for this project include simulating extreme conditions of Psyche, such as zero atmospheric pressure, cold temperatures, and a low acceleration of gravity. The system must function under such extreme conditions. Additionally, the system must be cost effective and versatile.

We started the year looking into different designs for a plug, starting with a plug utilizing nitinol. After looking further into this design, we decided to go a more mechanical route. This allowed us to be able to make a plug with our own designs, and limited risk as heat is needed to apply the nitinol plug.

This work was created in partial fulfillment of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Capstone Course “ME 430-04”. The work is a result of the Psyche Student Collaborations component of NASA’s Psyche Mission (https://psyche.asu.edu). “Psyche: A Journey to a Metal World” [Contract number NNM16AA09C] is part of the NASA Discovery Program mission to solar system targets. Trade names and trademarks of ASU and NASA are used in this work for identification only. Their usage does not constitute an official endorsement, either expressed or implied, by Arizona State University or National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of ASU or NASA.