Global AIS on the Space Station Forwards Maritime Education


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Students and advisors from the University of Hawaii at Manoa visited Houston the week of May 23, 2016, to further their research for the Global AIS on Space Station (GLASS) project. The project is a collaborative applied research and development project to assess the practical value of AIS data collected on the International Space Station (ISS) for maritime operations and worldwide maritime domain awareness. GLASS is funded in part by a grant from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).

As part of the grant program, GLASS is supporting research projects for three undergraduate students to assess the value of the received data for academic research and to engage and develop the next generation of maritime researchers. During the spring 2016 semester, the students started developing their project proposals, each of which will use data obtained from the GLASS mission after its launch in the summer of 2016. Jay Chitnis and Kainalu Ehman, both pursuing a BS in Global Environmental Sciences, are evaluating impacts to commercial fishing in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon incident and from water temperature change, respectively. Tatiana Oje, pursuing a BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering, is developing an algorithm to automatically detect potential illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) longline fishing in the Pacific Ocean. The students were joined by their advisors: Dr. Margo Edwards, Executive Director of the Applied Research Laboratory, and Kevin Kelly, Associate Director, Hawai‘i EPSCoR. By visiting with space and maritime professionals in Houston, the students were able to learn more about how their projects fit into the current and future needs of the maritime industry.

The facilities tours allowed the students the chance to see and inquire about the tools operators are using to make real-time decisions. The students had a great surprise at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), a 40-foot-deep swimming pool containing an ISS mock-up that astronauts use for zero gravity training. Astronaut Dr. Megan McArthur was training in the NBL, and upon learning that students from her native Hawaii were touring the training facility, she came out of the pool to meet with them after completing her training for the day. The students also visited JAMSS America, Inc., the primary investigator for GLASS; NASA Johnson Space Center; U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston; San Jacinto College Maritime; the M/V Sam Houston boat tour; and ended with presentations to the Port Bureau’s Board of Directors. The students alternated shifts in San Jac’s wheelhouse simulator to experience the challenges that vessel operators face on the waterways.

The students had opportunities to present their projects to several of the groups and engage in constructive discussion about the direction of the projects. Additionally, these sessions allowed the students an opportunity to refine their professional communication skills and networking confidence.

By hosting the University of Hawaii students, the GLASS team hopes it has inspired three future researchers to pursue careers in the intersection of blue water and space. The GLASS payload is scheduled to launch on SpaceX CRS-9 flight on July 17, 2016. For more information about GLASS, contact Christine Schlenker at

  • Date July 18, 2016
  • Tags July 2016