Thursday, July 12, 2007

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 10 (last day): Well our phenomenal institute experience ended with a BANG when we were given a final VVVIP tour of the NASA facilities. The day started off with a workshop about survival in space, and then we had the honor to receive behind-the-scenes tours of both the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and launch pad 39B. At the VAB we witnessed the assembly of the next Endeavour shuttle mission, which will launch in July with Barbara Morgan aboard. Ms. Morgan will be the first educator astronaut in history; and,consequently, she taught in Quito, Ecuador for two years and was also the backup person for Christa McAuliffe in 1986. This will truly be a momentous launch! Viewing the launch pad up close was also intriguing because we could view the escape baskets and bunkers, the crawler in the distance (which transports the shuttle stack), and the historic location where many launches have taken place.

To add frosting to the cake, the group of 30 educators and the institute coordinator (Dr. Romjue) jelled so well throughout our time together that not only did we leave with a wealth of knowledge and newfound experience, but we now also have international friendships to build upon. This experience was, hands down, out of this world!

Today's (final) factoid: In 2010 the shuttle missions will cease and Russia will continue to supply and service the International Space Station. At this time the Constellation Program will take over to take us to "the moon, Mars and beyond". The goal is that by 2014 a newly manned spacecraft, called Orion, will return us to the moon on the Ares Mission; and, between 2018 and 2020 four astronauts will have a permanent presence on the moon. What takes place after that will be a marvel to see!

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 9: VVVIP tour day! In the morning we worked in teams to put together our own rocket launchers (very cool), watched a power point on the makeup and design of the space shuttle, and then got the once-in-a-lifetime, top security tour of the NASA facilities. The highlight of the day was when we entered a vehicle assembly building, not knowing what we'd expect to see; and, when I looked up, saw that I was just a few feet underneath the Discovery space was AWESOME! After asking millions of questions of the engineer on duty, we then visited the engine assembly room and learned even more incredible facts and figures. By the end of the day our heads were swirling with numbers, but we were all on cloud nine!
Today's factoid: Go to to find the answers to just about any aerospace questions. At this website you can also link on to NASA TV, which not only has many educational shows on throughout the day but also offers live coverage of most current events worth viewing (shuttle ventures, satellite launches, the International Space Station activities, etc).

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 8: The last three days of the institute were the most exciting, with each day getting more and more interesting. On this day we visited the Florida Solar Energy Center and the planetarium. We explored and observed current research regarding solar thermal panels (for heating water), photovoltaics (creating electricity through solar energy) and fuel cells (which utilize liquid hydrogen and oxygen). The evening's event was a "Dinner With an Astronaut" and we all had a FANTASTIC time meeting and learning from astronaut Sam Gemar, who has flown three space shuttle missions. He defined success as being attained through four main avenues: education, hard work, staying out of trouble (which closes doors quickly) and application (following through on the application process necessary for the goal). He discussed many interesting aspects regarding past, present and future endeavours with NASA, and I look forward to sharing these with ya'll when we next meet!

Today's factoid(s): Did you know that...a space suit weighs 280 pounds? That an astronaut needs to undertake 500 hours of underwater training before attempting a space walk? That there are 520 switches in the space shuttle orbiter? Or that the space shuttle ascends 26,000 feet/second? That's 10 times faster than a speeding bullet and 5 miles for every heartbeat!

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 7 (Sunday): Day of rest! The morning was spent swimming at the beach (with sharks I found out, AFTER I got in the water) and an air boat ride at the Lone Cabbage (note photos). Lunch options included alligator, frog legs and a special request for "blackened food", for those who preferred. I opted for stuffed crab...yummy. P.S. Earlier in the week I met up with Matthew, a sweet boy who I took care of when he was 2 1/2 to 5 1/2 years old, and I hadn't seen him in 8 years. Now he's 15 and a BIG boy!

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 6 (Saturday): Today was spent learning at Epcot! The day started with a behind-the-scene tour of Mission Space, with is a 2.7 g ride that gives the visitor a feeling of what future explorations on Mars might likely feel like. Although this ride had less g's than previous ones we'd been on, it still made me squeal and was "out of this world"! Our day taught us more about various energy sources, utilizing plants in space, fuel cell cars of the future and much more :-).

Today's factoid: NASA is working in conjunction with Epcot to experiment with using airponics (plants grown in the air) for future space missions!

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 5: Today we started rocketry lessons and learned about Newton's three Laws of Motion. We made pop rockets, paper rockets and altitude trackers, which made for much silly fun for all!

Today's factoid: Newton's First Law of Motion states that, "an object in motion continues in motion forever". However friction stops motion and, thus, air will eventually stop motion. Since there is no air in outer space, and thus no friction, a spinning gyroscope put in space will stay in the position that it is put in. For this reason gyroscopes are used to keep satellites and the International Space Station in position. Interesting, eh?

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 4: Today's workshop focused on the light spectrum and its relationship to satellite imaging and learning about distant stars. One experiment entailed utilizing spectroscopes, which is a method used to tell what gasses lie between us and a distant star. By looking at the color spectrum scientists can determine what the atmosphere is made of in a distant star! We also learned about NASA spin offs that have been used by society to help make our lives easier, and the list goes on and on. Some examples include imaging techniques for health and medicine, an all-terrain robot that saves lives, improving upon solar energy, a pesticide-free device to get rid of mosquitoes, germicides, satellite technology, enhancing high-speed data collection and much, MUCH more! For the day's finale we watched a realistic, 3D IMAX movie about future moon explorations as a taste of what's to come.

Today's factoid: Despite the high cost of space exploration endeavours, NASA only receives 7/10 of 1% of the US budget. That's less than a penny per tax dollar, and no price can be put on the tremendous benefits that mankind receives from NASA's ongoing discoveries in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 3: This day was dedicated to workshops "revolving around" the solar system. If you do an Internet search on NASA's Hubble Telescope you'll be able to see some incredible photos of deep space, which show thousands upon thousands of galaxies! Once you realize what a minuscule part of the universe we have explored to date, it is almost unfathomable to imagine all the future possibilities that await mankind's discovery. As a final treat we got to experience 3 g's, on a vertical tilt, at the new Shuttle Launch Simulation Facility; which astronauts say gives a very realistic experience of what it feels like to be launched in the shuttle. Oh, and we saw a live alligator along the way!

Today's factoid: Most people think that there is no gravity when astronauts float in the shuttle when, in reality, there is simply LESS gravity; because the Earth's pull is still in effect. True weightlessness can never be achieved aboard the shuttle, but it's so small that the astronauts can't feel it's force.


Aerospace Institute - Days 1 and 2: After a lovely opening banquet to introduce the 30 participants (25 overseas and 5 US educators) and various heads of departments that helped to make this wonderful event possible, we spent our first day learning about aerospace history; including the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. After that we toured the Astronaut Hall of Fame and saw many incredible items first-hand. One of the highlights included going in the fantabulous G-Force machine – a simulator much like the one which the astronauts use for training – that allowed us to find out what 4 g’s feels like (see picture of me with the vomit bag used, fortunately, only as a precaution). It was an awesome day to learn about history first hand!
Today’s factoid: When we stand on the earth’s surface we say that we are at 1 g (or 1 “gravity”). The space shuttle starts at 1.g g’s at lift-off, builds to 2.5 g’s in 2 minutes, drops to 0.9 g’s when the solid rocket boosters burnout, and then slowly builds to 3 g’s nearing main engine cutoff…cool!