Present, Former DMACC Students Selected as NASA L’SPACE – Lucy Ambassadors

Posted 8/3/2020

​​​Pedro Salazar (left) and Mehmet Sefer have been Involved in numerous NASA projects.

  • Salazar and Sefer meet bi-weekly with NASA L’SPACE administrators to talk about the upcoming October 2021 mission.
  • DMACC student Salazar says he hopes to conduct at least one of his three presentations in Spanish so the Hispanic community can be informed.
  • Lucy will be the first space mission to explore a population of small bodies known as the Trojans.

DMACC Boon​e Campus student Pedro Salazar of Des Moines and current DMACC Ankeny ​Campus​ student Mehmet Sefer of Ames have been selected for yet another NASA project. Salazar, a 2015 graduate of Des Moines East High School, and Sefer, a 2018 graduate of Horizon International School of Uganda, were most recently each chosen as a 2020-2021 NASA Lucy Student Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler (L’SPACE) – Lucy Ambassadors. The virtual program was designed around NASA’s upcoming 2021 Luc​y mission.

Salazar, who just graduated from the DMACC Boone Campus, said Lucy will be the first space mission to explore a population of small asteroids known as the Trojans. The Trojans, orbiting the Sun, provide a unique, never-before-explored sample of the remnants of our early solar system. The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor, called “Lucy” by her discoverers, whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity's evolution.

Earlier, Salazar was named a summer 2020 NASA internship recipient chosen to participate in the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, Calif., and during the fall 2019 semester, Salazar was chosen to participate in the 12-week L’SPACE Virtual Academy. He has also completed the NCAS (NASA Community Aerospace Scholars) program.

“I’m very excited for Pedro," said Dr. Nancy Woods, DMACC Boone Campus Physics and Math Professor. "He continues to volunteer his time, energies and talent in amazing ways."

Salazar and Sefer said they have been having biweekly Zoom meetings since mid-July with Sheri Klug Boonstra, Director of the NASA L’SPACE Program; Dann Garcia, Deputy Director of the NASA L’SPACE Program; and Katherine Kretke, Lucy Team Liaison Researcher at Southwest Research Institute.

As Lucy Ambassadors, Sefer and Salazar are two of about 70 students who take part in these discussions focusing on an overview of the Lucy Mission, its expectations and resources. They are referred to as “Ambassadors for the NASA Lucy Mission to the Trojan Asteroids.”

Salazar said his one-year commitment as a Lucy Ambassador means he is responsible for three outreach events during the year.

“The presentations can last anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour each,” Salazar said. “I hope to conduct at least one in Spanish so the Hispanic community can be informed, too, of what is happening with the Lucy Mission.”

Salazar admits he has followed NASA his entire life.

"As a kid I looked up to NASA because they never stopped asking questions,” Salazar said. “Curiosity is something we all share, and the Lucy Mission is just that, looking for answers about the solar system history, what are the asteroids really made of and what do they look like.”

Sefer will be a second-year DMACC Liberal Arts student in the fall and enrolled in the Admission Partnership Program between DMACC and Iowa State University, where he plans to major in Aerospace Engineering. 

Sefer said he has been invited to participate in several NASA programs. Earlier this year, he was selected as a NASA L'SPACE Mission Concept Academy participant. His eight-member team selected him as project manager. Under his leadership, Sefer said the team developed a ten kilogram lander which will investigate the polar ice on the Lunar South Pole. His team also submitted a 190-page proposal, which is being reviewed by NASA.

In addition, Sefer was selected as a member of the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, where the participating teams were required to design and build a human-powered rover by considering unusual Lunar and Martian surfaces.

Sefer said as part of his role as a Lucy Ambassador he will be talking about the Lucy Mission and the future of the space industry.

“I will be trained by NASA administrators in the fields of Science Communication strategies, tactics and time management,” Sefer said.

He said he’s excited about where this next round of space exploration is heading.

“Under the leadership of NASA, exploration in this new area of space will give us deeper information about our solar system and lay the foundations for the next research,” Sefer said. “To go even further in space, NASA is going back in time and following the traces of the birth of our Solar System.”

Sefer and Salazar both said they hope to be able to attend the launch in October 2021.

“I feel that as an ambassador, I will have a voice to help recruit more students into the L’SPACE Academy, the Lucy mission and NASA in general,” Salazar said. “I want to show other students that even during these difficult times, they can participate in diverse NASA programs.”

For more on the Lucy mission, click here.

For more information, contact:​ 
-Dr. Nancy Woods, (515) 433-5061,
-Pedro Salazar, (515) 943-4157, 
-Mehmet Sefer, (515) 357-3470,

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