Dan Britt, UCF Pegasus physics professor, became the second UCF space researcher in university history to earn one of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most prestigious awards for work that makes a difference in exploring the world. space. Florida Space Institute planetary scientists Phil Metzger gained recognition in 2018.
Britt accepted the honor at the ASCE Earth & Space 2022 conference held in Denver late last month. The professor says the award reflects the work of all the people who are part of UCF’s Exolith Lab. The lab produces extraterrestrial regolith that mimics dirt found on Mars, the moon, and asteroids. Last year, the lab produced and shipped around 38 tons of regolith to researchers around the world working on equipment and projects to establish a sustainable presence beyond Earth. NASA, private commercial space companies, universities, and even K-12 schools use the material for research.
“The award is really for all the hard and smart work of the UCF students who actually run the Exolith Lab and make it the best in the world,” says Britt.
The Aerospace Division Outstanding Technical Contribution Award is awarded in recognition of distinguished achievements in aerospace engineering applicable to any branch of civil engineering.
“The intended audience is those who have contributed substantially to the advancement of the state of the art in aerospace engineering, science and technology, and the exploration and construction of space with a single outstanding publication, invention or discovery, or have a record of sustained excellence in technical contributions, “he says Lindsay O’Leary ’06the director of the American Society of Civil Engineers Technical Advancement who studied civil engineering at UCF.
Britt was selected in 2020, but due to the pandemic, the conference was held practically that year. The conference is held every two years and is part of the International Conference on Engineering, Science, Construction and Operations in Harsh Environments. Hence, Britt was able to pick up the award this year.
“The contributions of these exceptional individuals bring us one step closer to lunar and Martian dwellings as we develop engineering structures for aerospace environments and terrestrial applications subject to extreme environmental conditions,” O’Leary said in an email.
Britt has a long history of excellence. She was part of four NASA missions: Mars Pathfinder and Deep Space 1, the New Horizons Mission Science Team for the 2014 Kuiper Belt Asteroid MU69 flyby, the Lucy Mission Science Team for a series of asteroid flyovers near Jupiter. She was the project manager for the camera on Mars Pathfinder and built hardware for all of NASA’s Mars landers.
His work is funded by NASA and includes studying the physical properties and mineralogy of asteroids, comets, the moon and Mars to help keep astronauts safe and their vehicles functioning when traveling to other planets.
He is director of the Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS), a node of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). He was president of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society and of the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America. He has earned multiple degrees including economics and a PhD. in geology from Brown University.