USA Today Names Tech Senior Academic All-Star

Jarret Lafleur, a fourth-year aerospace engineering major and a President's Scholar, was named to USA Today's 2006 College Academic All-Stars first team.

Students applying for this distinction were asked to write an essay about their "greatest intellectual endeavor," said Lafleur. He chose to submit his conceptual design for Daedalon, a morphing wings spacecraft for navigation on Mars.

"The concept was that you would enter (Mars' atmosphere) as a blunt body aeroshell and that aeroshell would transform into wings, which could change shape as you got to a lower speed. You could morph your wings into a low-speed configuration as you slow down," he said.

Lafleur worked on the project for the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts in 2003-04. As a co-op student, he has worked with the Johnson Space Center for three semesters, spending two semesters in Houston working on mission operations and design for an orbital space plane, and one at the White Sands, N.M., testing facility.

Currently, Lafleur is researching what type of propulsion is needed to slow down a large spacecraft trying to land on Mars. That's a difficult problem because the Martian atmosphere is very thin and doesn't slow down a spacecraft as much as it would on Earth.

"We were finding that if you have this 100 ton payload entering the atmosphere and just let it fall, without any propulsion to help slow it down, you'd hit the ground at Mach 2 or 3 ," he said. "My part of the project is studying what type of propulsion would be required, whether you could use propulsion alone, or with a parachute."

In 2005, Lafleur received a scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Founded in 1984 by the six surviving astronauts of Mercury 7 and the widow of the seventh, the foundation says on its Web site that scholarships are awarded to "college students who exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional performance in the science or engineering field of their major."

Originally from Rhode Island, Lafleur was attracted to Tech's top-flight aerospace engineering program. But that wasn't all. Lafleur has played flute and piccolo for the marching, concert and symphonic bands, the flute choir and the chamber winds ensemble. About his decision to attend Tech, he said, "I knew I could keep up with music while I was here and I could get the strong aerospace background that I wanted. Those were probably the biggest draws."

"Jarret is one of the rising stars in our aerospace engineering program. He is extremely talented academically and is a credit to our school," said John Olds, associate professor of aerospace engineering. "He is very deserving of the honor."

Lafleur plans to attend graduate school and pursue his doctorate. He is not certain where graduate school will take him but "Georgia Tech is certainly up there in the running," he said.

Concerning his career aspirations, Lafleur said, "I certainly want to do space types of engineering. And I prefer to focus on human space flight and all the new exploration initiatives such as going to the moon and Mars."