Thursday, July 17, 2014

ISAS Academy One: Day 4

This morning the students again rose early and readied themselves to start their second day at the NASA Ames Research Center. After so many exciting activities yesterday they knew to expect an engaging and informing time during the presentations and tours that would be given and the day did not disappoint.

The students had the opportunity to hear from prominent scientist Chris McKay, a member of the panel of scientists from the day before, who gave a presentation about finding life on Mars. He gave more details about the three (of eight) landing sites that the students were challenged to take core samples at, the three he recommended. He also told students how millions of years ago each could have been a textbook location for microorganisms and other life. Dr. McKay shared a lot of information with the students that helped them better understand their mission to Mars.   

Students then went to visit two human centrifuges. Among other things, these machines study how humans react in conditions of up to 12 g’s. Daniel Morgan explained that one end of the large centrifuge is used for human experiments and the other for non-human ones. Students got the opportunity to sit in the centrifuge chair, take pictures and explore the spinning contraption. The smaller centrifuge used to be human powered, but has since been modified to use an engine. The pedals are still used for experiments studying exercise.

Students had the opportunity to sit in NASA’s largest centrifuge where many experiments take place.

The students also visited the Space Shop, where ideas come to life as laser cutters and 3D printers with various other machines that cut or shape parts of machines for engineers to compile together. The Space Shop works as an open 3D printing lab where engineers, scientists and other professionals can prototype ideas for products. Matthew Reyes, from last night’s panel of experts, explained how each machine worked and what its purpose was.

Soon after, students were fortunate to see another renowned scientist from yesterday’s panel, Pascal Lee, as he delivered a presentation on the specifics of a mission to Mars. He explained what would have to happen for a mission to mars to take place. Although Dr. Lee had various reasons he saw us going to Mars, he said the most important one that would be necessary to get the funding would be national interest; explaining how England didn’t travel the world until France started, and the United States didn’t put a man on the moon until the Soviet Union started pulling ahead in the space race. The people who travel to Mars would be experienced people who are experts in many survival and research fields. In explaining how we’d get to and live on Mars, Dr. Lee related Mars to Devon Island and explained how experiments they are doing on this island up in the artic and other locations worldwide are preparing them for the Martian environment.

Enthralling the ISAS students, Pascal Lee shares his vision for a Mars Mission.

They later 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 turbulence created by the flowing air rushing against the walls of the wind tunnel. 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.

Neon dye flows through a liquid around the plane, to show the path the air follows.

Listening to the wind tunnel, ISAS students hear the difference between smooth and turbulent air.

Students visited the Crew-Vehicle Systems Research Facility for a tour led again by Lisa Grant. 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 were also able to see an early simulator of a world war two plane made from organ-like air pumps. There was also a visit to a radar room for air traffic controllers where research is being done to see how computers can help with the increasing demands that air traffic controllers face as the number of airplane flights rise.

ISAS students climb into a flight simulator of a Boeing 747.
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 and other 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, Adrianne Wilkinson 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 frequent updates as well as all of the day’s pictures. We hope to see you at the Saturday banquet for the final presentation of the students’ mission plans.  #ISASacademy

--Camille Eddy (ISAS 2012 alumna) and 
Holly Palmer (ISAS 2013 alumna)
ISAS Social Media Mentors

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