Thursday, July 25, 2013

ISAS 2013 Academy 2: 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.

The students had the opportunity to hear from preeminent scientist Chris McKay who brought a presentation about finding life on Mars. He spoke on the different instruments used to look for organics, reasons why it might be hard to find traces of organic material on Mars and the moral implications if we do find some on the red planet. Mr. McKay shared a lot of information with the students and received a nice round of applause at the conclusion.   

Chris McKay speaks to students during a presentation.

Students went to the Arc Jet where different materials are tested with intense heat. Led by Ernie Fretter and John Balboni they were able to see and hear about the different materials that are tested and the process of the testing. The arc jet is designed to simulate the conditions for spacecraft during re-entry of the Earth's atmosphere. Heat shields are one example of what is tested at this facility. 

ISAS students visit the Arc Jet Facility.

The students also visited the Psychophysiological Lab and were able to meet Pat Cowings who developed the Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise. This exercise is used to train astronauts to deal with the stresses accompanied by living and working in space on their bodies and on their minds. They are trained in their reactions to different situations they encounter to purposefully lower their heart rate, bring their emotions under control and other tasks in order to perform their duties.

ISAS students visit the Psychophysiological Lab.

Soon after students were glad to see Pascal Lee once again as he delivered a presentation on research being completed at Devon Island. Devon Island is 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 revisits ISAS students in a talk about Devon Island. 

Students met with Brian Day once again who gave a very intriguing presentation on lunar exploration. He talked about various moon exploration missions such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). Both of these spacecrafts were looking for more evidence of water on the moon based on theories that the poles of the moon contain frozen water. Students asked questions such as, "How far are areas of permafrost spread out over the moon?" And, "Does NASA have any plans for a lunar base?"

Brian Day revisits ISAS students in a presentation about lunar missions.

They also paid a visit to the Fluid Dynamics Lab and were able to see the "Life Saver" wind tunnel. They participated in an experiment that involved the friction on the walls of the wind tunnel created by the flowing air. Around the walls the air slows down to a point where the velocity is zero but as you move away from the wall toward the air stream the velocity gradually increases. This allowed the students to listen to a change of pitch in the airflow as they moved a tube near and away from the wall.

ISAS students participate in a wind tunnel experiment. 

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 learned about Ed Link who made an early version of a simulator called the Link Flight Trainer. There was also a visit to a 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.

ISAS students get to sit in a full 747 flight simulator. 

The students left excited about what they had witnessed these past two days and thinking and talking about the opportunities they would have to join these scientists and engineers in just a few years. After this trip to NASA Ames students will have their sights set high for the future. 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.  #ISAS


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