Thursday, July 11, 2013

ISAS 2013 Academy 1: Day 4

This morning the students were wide awake and ready to start their second day at the NASA Ames Research Center. After such an exciting time yesterday they knew to expect an engaging and informing time through the presentations and tours that would be given and NASA did not disappoint those expectations.

Mark Leon was the first presenter of the day. He gave the students three keys to engineering. Do the math, be persistent and take risks. Mr. Leon is an Electrical Engineer and was hired at to work at NASA at eighteen years old. Through him students learned about the Lunar Micro Rovers.  With a possible 2018 launch, these cost effective rovers are planning to land in the southern poles of the moon to look for water ice. The students were able to recall many specific numbers for Mr. Leon such as the distance from the Earth to the Moon and the speed of light.

Mark Leon appreciated the students' participation in his presentation.

Students went to the Arc Jet where different materials are tested with intense heat. Led by Ernie Fretter they were able to see and hear about the different materials that are tested and the process of the testing. The students arrived at just the right time for they had the chance to actually observe a test of the heat shield for the Orion Crew Vehicle.

Students get the exciting opportunity to see a heat shield test for the upcoming Orion Crew Vehicle. 

They also paid a vist to the Fluid Dynamics Lab and were able to see the "Life Saver" wind tunnel. Students learned that when it is time for FIFA World Soccer Cup, the soccer ball design is tested in that wind tunnel. And that the popular show Myth Busters also conducts tests at the wind tunnel and other locations on NASA Ames.

Students are shown the "Life Saver" wind tunnel.

Students also had the chance to hear the change of frequency in the wind coming out of the tunnel by using a tube with one end held by their ear and the other end held at the end of the tunnel.

Students are listening for a frequency change in the wind. 

In the same lab the students were able to view a water channel simulator that simulated wind flow around cars or other objects.

A model car is being shown in a simulation under blacklight. 

Soon after students were glad to see Pascal Lee once again as he delivered a presentation on research at Devon Island. The largest uninhabited island in the world that is much like the Mars surface and therefore a perfect place to test rovers in a martian-like terrain. Mr. Lee also talked about the specifics of planning a Mars mission such as layout of the colony, space suit design, rovers, and crew selection.

Pascal Lee speaking to students during a presentation.

Maria Bualat who has been with NASA for 26 years and works with the Intelligent Robotics Group, spoke to the students on the Mars Robot Rovers. Her particular project deals with the software rovers use and mission operations. Rovers will be needed to go out to scientific places of interest on Mars and look for safety issues on the way and at the destination that might hinder astronauts. Rovers will also help the astronauts improve upon the scientific data they will be collecting. The K10 is a fully functional rover and while it is not meant to be Mars ready it is used in tests on martian-like terrain to test its software performance.

Maria Bualat speaks to students during a presentation.

Students visited the Crew-Vehicle Systems Research Facility for a tour led by David Chin. They were able to look at a full 747 simulator and a few students had the opportunity to fly in the simulation as well. They also learned about Ed Link who made an early version of a simulator called the Link Flight Trainer. There was also an radar room for air traffic controllers where research is done to see if computers can help with the increasing demands air traffic controllers face as the number of airplane flights rise.

Students experience a full 747 flight simulator. 

The Atlas Booster rocket was originally tested at the Ames Research Center and afterwards the facility became home to the Mars Wind Tunnel. This particular wind tunnel simulates martian wind conditions. Ken Smith led this tour and was willing to answer any questions the students had for him.

Ken Smith stands in front of the Mars Wind Tunnel speaking to the students. 

Students stand in front of the intake for the Mars Wind Tunnel.

The students left the NASA Ames Research Center and arrived back at Boise on a very late flight.  Tomorrow starts bright and early for them with much to do. We want to thank Tony Leavitt and all of the other professionals at NASA Ames Research Center who helped make this trip one of the most exciting and engaging experiences the students have had at the Academy. Don't forget to check out the Facebook and Twitter pages for more updates during the day. And we hope to see you at the banquet for the final presentation on Saturday.

--Camille

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