Posts tagged NASA

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Our Trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

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Author’s note: this article is very picture-heavy. Feel free to click on any of the images to enlarge them, and skip to the bottom for an album of more images.
 

badgeRecently, the fine people over at the NASA Kennedy Space Center invited me to attend a SpaceX launch as a Social Media attendee. This was pretty awesome news – they only extend this invitation to 50 people per launch.

Unfortunately, we got news the day before the launch that the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft launch had been postponed a few weeks due to issues encountered while testing the Falcon rocket. Getting that news was kind of a bummer, but we were promised a special surprise to make up for it, and NASA delivered.

After arriving at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, we got our media badges, and then boarded a bus with a NASA Social sign in the front window. Some introductions were made, and some of these internet socialites already knew each other. One thing I can say for sure was that everyone who attended this event was amazingly friendly and welcoming.

DSC_0041We were driven around the KSC for a little while, hearing facts about the building of the KSC in the 60s. We heard about how the KSC is home to many species of wildlife, and saw evidence of this – including alligators in the canals lining the road, and an enormous eagle’s nest in a tree just off the road. We chatted with each other, exchanged stories and interests, and heard many anecdotes such as “Of course a bus full of NASA nerds are also Firefly fans!”

DSC_0055Our first destination of the day was a launchpad used for – you guessed it – launching large things into space! On our way, however, we saw a couple of Crawlers. Crawlers are what NASA uses to move large objects across the property. Objects such as spacecrafts, rockets, and mobile launch platforms. The crawlers are gyroscopically stable, meaning that no matter what bumps and turbulence they encounter, their cargo will not be affected.

Once we got to the launchpad, we were brought into the actual launchpad, right were shuttles are loaded, and where the launch fire comes out. The walls were scorched by decades of previous launches. The sound suppression system was enormous. You’ll see it in the pictures below – it’s used to make sure windows don’t get smashed all over Cape Canaveral/Cocoa Beach whenever there’s a launch.

DSC_0073Next, we were taken to check out a couple of mobile launch platforms. When a crawler is used to move this platform, it will be positioned underneath the mobile launch platform, and will then lift it off the pillars it stands on to move it. The scaffolding on the mobile platform to the left here is used to position a shuttle against. It’s ridiculously huge. The pictures don’t really do a great job of showing how huge it is. We also went underneath a mobile platform, and stood where hundreds of thousands of gallons of water would be flushed through to counteract the heat from a shuttle launching. It was pretty awesome.

Then came the really big surprise. We were told we’d be able to see the spacecraft, Orion, but not that we would get to participate in a full press conference for the return of Orion. This particular Orion spacecraft flew 66,000 miles out and around the Earth. It met 85 out of 87 flight objectives, which is extremely high. Orion’s mission was to collect data, and it was considered a success. Orion landed in the Pacific Ocean, and was then transported to the East Coast over about 8 days via roads and highways to get to the Kennedy Space Center. Coming up in February, Orion’s heat shield will be removed for further analysis. Various parts of the space craft will be removed for testing and data analysis, but for the most part, it will remain in tact for display and/or simulations because of how well it held up in space. And of course.. I took a couple selfies with Orion. Wouldn’t you?

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After the big Orion reveal, we were given access to the KSC’s Visitor Complex. I’m honestly surprised that NASA’s pretty amazing marketing team hasn’t come up with a better name for the Visitor Complex. It’s not some stuffy building with a desk and pamphlets like you might expect. No.. the KSC Visitor Complex is like Disneyland for space. It’s a lot of fun. There are rides, exhibits, simulations. If you’re ever around Cape Canaveral, I definitely recommend checking it out. You could easily spend a whole day there.

Despite the launch woes, the trip was a lot of fun, and definitely worth it. A huge THANK YOU!! goes to NASA (and especially Jason!) for the opportunity. 
If you’re interested in the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft launch, it is currently scheduled for Saturday, January 10th at 4:47am. More info will be posted on the SpaceX website

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Guest Post: Tired of being a Pioneer

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So, this guest post is part of an ongoing series of posts that will be bouncing back and forth between Nerds in Babeland and Tia-Marie. The impetus behind this series can be found at Tia Marie’s blog (I’m Sick of the ‘Women in Tech’ debate).

In high school I was one of the top students in almost all of my math classes, but I also had serious confidence issues. Sadly, I gave up on those pursuits in math and science because it wasn’t “popular” to be smart in those areas (at least not at my school) and it was much “cooler” to be in drama club and do well in English. Yes, I know. I am ashamed. I’ve always regretted those decisions and that is why bullying stories like Katie’s story particularly affect me.

This post isn’t about me though. When I saw Tia Marie’s discussion about women in technology and her idea of hearing from ACTUAL women in the fields of science and engineering, I immediately contacted her about setting up these series of posts. We put out a call to women in these fields via twitter (I know, super professional, right?) and we were lucky enough to hear from these two amazing women, Jenn and Holly.

As a good intro to this series, I thought the first post should be entirely written by one of the women themselves (future posts may resemble more of a Q&A format).  A solid THANK YOU to these two women is necessary and if you also have stories you’d like to share on either of these blogs, please contact us!  The below is from Jenn’s personal blog.

For those who don’t know me, I have worked in aviation and aerospace for the past decade. In October, I volunteered for a layoff from my job as a technician on the Space Shuttle Program, as it is coming to an end soon. I am very much a space advocate, and have been using Twitter to share my enthusiasm for space for over two years. I am also the founder of the Space Tweep Society, a growing group of space enthusiasts on Twitter. Due to that role, I am often asked to participate in interviews or space outreach activities, many with the goal of encouraging girls to pursue careers in science or technology. This leaves me feeling quite conflicted because I’d love to have more women in aviation and aerospace, but in my experience breaking into these fields was really rough. I almost feel guilty for encouraging them, knowing what kind of obstacles they may face.

Of course I say “obstacles they may face” because there is a chance they won’t have any issues. A certain author who was once an engineer for a contractor on NASA’s Apollo program said in a recent interview, “All of the guys were great. No problems. I was just ‘one of the team.’ I have worked for many companies for 25+ years in technical jobs. I was the only woman in many. I was treated with respect and courtesy… There is no conflict in any job if you don’t act like a jackass.” She also tweeted, “Get rid of [the] idea that guys [are] mean to gals in Space Exp[loration]. Guys [are] great friends. I worked with men in all jobs for years. Some gals [are] idiots.” While I’m very happy to hear that she had only positive experiences, for many of us this was not the case- and I don’t think it was because we are “idiots” or “act like jackasses.” My own entry into the career field of aviation was definitely rocky, and I blogged about it a few years ago. The following is an updated version of that post:

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