Carnegie Mellon University

Corinne Vassallo

Major: Music and Physics           Year: Senior        Hometown: Northport, NY

Project title: "Optical Orbit Determination"
Type of Support

When did you become involved in undergraduate research at CMU?  I became involved with this project at the end of my sophomore year.

How did you find your mentor?  Professor William (Red) Whittaker was my professor for 16-685, "Space Systems", a class which primarily exists for the development of the lunar rover and lander in pursuit of the Google Lunar X-Prize. Knowing that I enjoyed Physics, he suggested that I consider orbit determination mid-semseter for the remainder of the class and then continue as a SURF porject. I fell in love with the project and have been working on it ever since!

How has your idea/project evolved through the academic years?  I began by looking at how to determine lunar orbits inflight by taking images of the surface of the moon and comparing them to a known database (map). Then I continued to develop and test this method enough to help write my first paper. I have recently begun looking at methods for determining cruise stage orbits or the trajectories that take a spacecraft from orbit around earth to a lunar orbit.

What successes or difficulties have you encountered in this project or others?  I started this project when I was only considering a music major and I had never programmed before. It was difficult to learn at first, but I'm acquiring a skill that I really enjoy!

If you could summarize your experience in one word, what would it be?  Amazing.