Rising star Lorian launches into space internship

19/02/2024 | 3 mins

Engineering and chemistry student Lorian Marshall has swapped lecture theatres for lunar landings, using her skills in advanced space robotics technology as part of a six-month internship with a new multi-million-dollar space operations hub in Perth.

"Our team is looking at mobility systems and the software and electronics inside the rover; we’re testing and running software developed by NASA. I’ve always been a space nerd, so it’s an incredible experience."

UWA student Lorian Marshall

The University Western Australia final-year student was the only student intern to be selected to join the team and will be based at the world-class Australian Space Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Control Complex (SpAARC), a joint initiative by the Australian Space Agency, the WA State Government and Fugro.

The complex was established to support research, spur innovation, create jobs and further build Australia’s own space industry ecosystem, and allow users to demonstrate and test remote robotic capabilities to deploy into space and other remote environments.

For 19-year-old Lorian, it will be home for the next six months as she works on the landmark Trailblazer mission which will see the design, development, testing, and operation of a lunar rover, an Australian contribution to the international Moon-to-Mars program. 

The rover’s mission will be to collect lunar soil and deliver it to a NASA processing facility on the Moon, the first step to extracting oxygen from the Moon’s surface, which will be vital in supporting a sustainable human presence on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

“It’s so exciting and really cool to be working on Australia’s first lunar rover (Roo-ver) with the Australian Space Agency and there are some fantastic collaborations happening,” Lorian said. 

“I’m working with the mechanical and software sub-teams exploring potential designs for the sample manipulation system which will control the manoeuvres that collect and deposit the lunar soil or regolith. I’m also writing code that will develop tests for our flight software down the line.

Lorian Marshall working on the Rover

Image: Lorian putting her skills to work at SpAARC.

“Our team is looking at mobility systems and the software and electronics inside the rover; we’re testing and running software developed by NASA. I’ve always been a space nerd, so it’s an incredible experience.”

The former John XXIII College student credited her maths teacher Peter Mazur with unlocking her love of maths.

“He must have seen something in me because he said I’ll see you in the specialist maths classes when you get to senior school,” Lorian said. 

“It was a major confidence boost and kickstarted my drive towards engineering.”

“He also ran the astronomy club on Friday nights and so I’d go along with my friend Ben Linsten and we’d spend our time star-gazing.

“I was raised in science. Both my parents are in the biology field, so for me to end up a space obsessed engineer was a bit of a shock.”

Lorian’s passion was further fuelled by stints at the National Youth Science Forum in Canberra and at the Binar Space Program, building a testing rig for the Binar-2,3,4 CubeSatellites, to be launched later this year.

The book lover and talented musician (she plays the clarinet and saxophone) will begin her Master of Professional Engineering in July after completing her Bachelor of Science, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Synthetic Chemistry.

“My dream is to keep working on frontier space missions and push the limits of human technology,” she said.

“Space is such a weird environment where even the most basic assumptions like gravity and temperature get flipped on their heads. 

“The challenges are huge and that’s what drew me in — that’s what’s fascinating.”

Media references

Liz McGrath, UWA Media Advisor, 08 6488 7975

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