Thursday, July 21, 2011

ISAS 2011 Academy 1 Day 4

Today’s events were off to a very groggy start as our scholars woke up extra early in order to get ready for another day at NASA Ames. After picking up their sack breakfasts provided by the Navy Lodge, the students were instructed to leave their belongings in one of the staff member’s rooms. As the final bags were organized into place, the students and staff headed towards the guarded gates of Ames Research Center, where they were seated in an auditorium for their first presentation.

Students relaxing before presentation

Dr. Bryan Day was the first presenter; he lectured the students on the LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) which was a mission NASA used to determine whether the moon held ice. As the presentation got into full swing, the students kept asking tremendous questions which Dr. Day responded to with equally great answers; the questions by the students developed into useful tips which they could apply towards their own mission.

After the students departed the auditorium and had their fill of questions and answers from Dr. Day, they met with Dr. Patricia S. Cowings, Director of Psychophysiological Research at NASA Ames, and received a personal tour of her facility. She explained to the students exactly what her line of work and experimentation had brought to NASA over the years. After the tour, the students were assembled by teams inside of a small room to watch a video which explained even more about the research done by the Psychophysiological team there at Ames. Once again, this presentation gave the students even more ideas for the teams living there and getting there.

Next, the students were taken to the Aviation Systems Division next door to the Psychophysiological building where they were shown a system called Future Flight Central. Here the students were shown a simulated airport in Nevada, from the perspective of the control tower, and were impressed by the ability of the tower to see all the runways on the other side of the simulated airport. The students were also impressed by how life-like the snow, rain, and fog simulations were in the tower. Even more realistic was a simulated voyage they witnessed from Nevada to the surface of Mars. The simulation was able to put into better perspective what conditions the students would have to prepare for once their “team” got to the surface of the red planet.

Red Team in the tower

After these amazing first tours, the students were ready for more good food at the Mega Bites café; from their previous day, many had noticed that at the centrifuge, the scientists had outlined all Wednesdays as Burrito Days and were even more intrigued when every NASA scientist appeared to have a burrito on their plate. Deciding to try out this NASA culinary specialty, most students built their own burritos and once they took their first bites were impressed by the hidden culinary talents of NASA.

Once the students were refueled with burritos, and had finished some more shopping at the gift shop, they departed towards the same auditorium they had entered earlier that morning. This time the presentation fell upon the shoulders of Dr. Dana Backman, who had personally worked on the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) project. Dr. Backman showed the students how SOFIA was able to scan space using a 100-inch telescope that used infrared light to detect objects in space that would usually be missed by even the famous Hubble Telescope. The infrared pictures shown by Dr. Backman revealed a different side of space that many students had not previously witnessed.

For the final BIG event at Ames Research Center, the students were taken to the breath-takingly large 80x120 wind tunnel. This wind tunnel, the largest in the world, is 80 feet high by 120 feet wide and it has been where NASA has tested many objects such as shuttle parachutes, shuttle models, and even an F-18 Blue Angels jet. The students also found out that many of the chutes tested in the wind tunnel were also dropped over their own state of Idaho during further testing. The students were also allowed to go into the wind tunnel as well as witness how the wind tunnel functioned both by itself and with the attached 40x80 wind tunnel.

Students inside the 80 X 120 wind tunnel

Outside view of the 80 X 120 wind tunnel
After being in the wind tunnel and listening to NASA’s longest standing mission, inspiring and motivating young people to academic and social greatness, the students were taken over to the space shuttle model outside for a small, yet professional, photo shoot. Here the teams were assembled by color, with their respective mentors, and finally with the other teams and mentors intermingled for a ISAS group picture before heading back to the San Jose International Airport. There, they awaited the flight back home while interacting happily with one another.

Students awaiting their flight in San Jose
These blogs will continue to be uploaded daily, once the students have completed their final activities each night. A more "live" version of the days' events are being uploaded onto the ISAS Summer Academy Facebook group and page, as well as to Twitter at ISAS_Academy. The students are eager to continue work on their missions as they prepare for an extensive tour of Micron.

--Jaime Guevara, Andrew Schrader--

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