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Way to Go!: Melissa Dileo of Calhoun H.S.

Melissa Dileo, a senior at Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, was team leader for a six-student group that recently won first place in a spacesuit design contest held in conjunction with a summer program she took at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Her team designed a weight-distribution system for a spacesuit that could be used on Mars and also revamped part of the suit that connects the helmet and body, the neck dam, to allow astronauts to more easily turn their heads.

For winning, Dileo and teammates received passes to view the space shuttle launch in Florida on Nov. 30.

"On Mars there is more gravity than on the moon and we wanted to create something easier to hold," Dileo said of the suit's system. "Current suits topple backwards because of the weight. Our design kept more weight on the legs, hips and chest."

The team's neck dam design consisted of a hood-like material inside the helmet that attaches to an astronaut's head, letting the helmet turn with the head up to 180 degrees. Existing helmets turn with the torso and offer limited vision, she said.

Others on Dileo's team were Shai Letz of Elmont Memorial High School and Kendall Coughlin of Patchogue-Medford High School.

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