Aerospace Engineering student represents Australia at NASA competition

Aerospace Engineering student represents Australia at NASA competition

RMIT’s Jack Emmerson was the only Australian finalist in a NASA-sponsored global competition held in Florida, USA.

The 2024 RASC-AL competition invited undergraduate and graduate teams from around the globe to present innovative new concepts that could improve NASA’s ability to operate on the Moon, Mars and beyond. 

Emmerson, a third-year Aerospace Engineering (Honours) student, was team leader for a collaborative team between RMIT University, Clarkson University (USA) and Khalifa University (UAE). 

A man in a white shirt and tie holding a microphone Emmerson presented his team’s project to judges from NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace.

As team leader, he presented his team’s idea to NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace. 

Their project, ‘AUTONOMY: Augmented Unmanned Technology Operating in Navigating Objects of Mining Yield’, explored the concept of deploying a highly advanced manufacturing plant to selected asteroids to harvest resources and navigate objects in the solar system’s main asteroid belt. 

A digital rendering of the ANATOMY satellite with planets The individual systems of AUTONOMY pictured with Asteroid Ceres in the background. Manufacturing Probe (left), Scouting Probe (top), Harvesting Probe (right).

Emmerson said the project initially sparked his curiosity because of his longstanding interest in space. 

“In my opinion, space is the frontier of all advanced sciences,” he said. 

“Systems Engineering in space is a complex field on the forefront of research. This drives me to apply myself by doing Aerospace Engineering at RMIT, where I learn key Aerospace concepts that helped me in the competition” he said. 

Leading the project team for this competition was a new challenge for Emmerson, tasked with collaborating with teams from across the globe. 

“The collaboration with the United States team and the United Arab Emirates team was a unique experience you only get a couple of times in your life,” he said. 

“My role was the team lead of the project; I would assign tasks to the main point of contacts for the US and UAE teams, and they would delegate tasks to their team members who specialised in that area.” 

ANATOMY's team members with their names The project team for AUTONOMY consisted of Emmerson, and people from the USA and UAE.

The international aspect of the competition was a highlight for Emmerson, who interacted with people from all over the world. 

“It was weird being the only Australian at the forum. There were other internationals there, but they came from Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Puerto Rico,” he said. 

“Meeting all the like-minded individuals at the forum was the best part of the whole trip, comparing our projects and talking about new ideas in space travel was great.” 

Emmerson said he had gained valuable skills in leading project teams and collaborating with diverse people throughout the process. 

“Being the team lead for this project, I now know what is needed of a leader and what it takes to lead a successful engineering project,” he said. 

“I am currently being asked by several Aerospace Engineers in my cohort to organise their entry for next year, so I am excited to lead or advise the RMIT team again,” he said. 

5 men and 1 women standing together in front of a media wall reading RASC-AL. Emmerson with his teammates from Clarkson University at the forum.

Looking further into the future, Emmerson hopes to eventually work at the Australian Space Agency (ASA). 

“I want to help the ASA develop into a world class space agency competing and working with other countries at a world-leading level,” he said. 

“Currently, our space agency is lacking much needed infrastructure and technology to get off the ground and I would like to be a pivotal player in the Australian Space Agencies development.” 


Story by: Sheridan van Gelderen

10 July 2024


10 July 2024


  • Science and technology
  • STEM
  • Aerospace & Aviation
  • Engineering

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.