As we mentioned in a previous blog post, Corrie from the Captico team was chosen to participate in a very unique opportunity. It had a rainy, and traffic-delayed start, but it led to a very interesting day in the company of great people.
Twelve people, selected from an undisclosed number of applications by the social media team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, met at the Visitor’s Center in Greenbelt, MD on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 for a VIP tour of Goddard’s Environmental & Engineering Test Facilities. The guests (who reflected a cross section of Twitter users including: photographers, bloggers, videographers, teachers, IT guys, engineers, developers and more) were greeted by the energetic and well-informed Public Affairs Officer, Nina Harris (shown in the picture above and to the left). After goofing around in the Vistor’s Center displays and feeling each other out, the group was gathered together and given the day’s run down by Rebecca Roth.
Science on a Sphere at NASA Goddard
Next, with mobile devices in hand, the eager tweeters were shown the “Science on a Sphere” presentation by Chief Scientist Dr. Jim Garvin. This included very cool imagery “projected” on the giant sphere along with great commentary and information from Dr. Garvin. (View the video here.) (The photo to the right is via @upandcoming27) Captico tweeted these bits from the lecture:
- 20-30 years ago, we didnt know there were holes in the ozone, didnt understand el nino – [we've made] big scientific developments!
- [on climate change] we now have a northwest passage- what lots of explorers died trying to find – global climate change is cyclical, but… [there is cause for concern]
- “the earth is a really dynamic world – its our window to the universe” – Dr. Jim Garvin
- satellite technology lets us look inside the earth – looking at underground water storage right now – very cool
- “our sun is small, small potatoes as far as stars go” – Dr. Jim Garvin — solar storms affect gps, satellites, power grids
- looking at 3d map of mars [projected on the sphere] – volcanoes look crazy!
- new Mars Rover camera system courtesy James Cameron – due to Avatar film technology
- poor pluto… no longer a planet… p.s. earth is a tiny, tiny, tiny planet. Tiny.
- “Why care about space? Our planet lives in space.” Everything affects us. – Dr. Jim Garvin
From the Visitor’s Center, the group was chauffeured across the Goddard compound and into the hands of Janet Thomas at the Spacecraft Test and Integration Facilities – where they “shake, bake, and radiate” space-bound craft, tools, supplies, and instruments to ensure they can withstand the rigors of space travel. The most amazing thing here is the scale. Everything is HUGE. (Of course, it has to be huge, it has to be able to hold rockets!) We saw scientists working in clean rooms, testing components for upcoming launches, working on… all sorts of things! View a video of a Clean Room. The photo on the left is part of the TIRS satellite in ‘bake’ testing – photo by the lovely @LuceliaCherie (you can see part of Corrie on the left video taping- view the video she took here) You can also view a video clip of the ICESat Atlas II Model for Routing harnesses and cable.
The Thermal Vacuum Chamber was massive (big enough to hold a rocket). The Chamber sucks out all of the air and chills or heats its contents to space-like temperatures (down to -310 degrees F, or up to 302 degrees F). (Photo on the right by @corrietweets)
High-Capacity Centrifuge Facility at NASA Goddard
The centrifuge was gigantic- capable of swinging/spinning up to 5,000lbs to speeds so high, whatever is on it experiences more than 30Gs of force! To give you an idea of scale, on launch, astronauts usually feel 2-3Gs for a few minutes, and the most intense roller-coasters in the world only reach about 5Gs for just a few seconds. That doesn’t mean EVERYTHING is pushed to the max. “We take the structural loading conditions that we expect to see during launch and then jack them up 25 percent,” says Mike Weiss, Hubble’s technical deputy program manager at Goddard. The Centrifuge is calibrated so perfectly, that a few of us could have pushed it around or weighed it down by pulling on one end.
The tour led past the Robotics Satellite Servicing clean room, where a group was discussing a solution to fueling craft in orbit, and over to the Acoustic Test Chamber where several technicians were working on a large craft. Guarded by redwood like, 18 inch concrete doors, the 42 foot tall chamber can produce noise at levels as high as 150 dB. through two 6 foot wide speaker horns. (View the video here.) Some of the wiring in space craft can be as thin as a human hair and you don’t want vibrations snapping communication wire 350 miles above earth! The two cone shaped speakers, inset in the left wall of the chamber, “use an altering flow of gaseous nitrogen to produce a sound level as high as 150 decibels for two-minute tests. That’s about the level of sound heard standing next to a jet engine during takeoff.” (Photo by @Taylofquist)
The next stop on the tour was the Spacecraft Systems Development and Integration Facility!
High Bay Clean Room at NASA Goddard
While we weren’t able to enter the largest clean room in the world, we were able to watch the scientists from a high viewing window. (As seen in the photo to the left – by @disconn3ct) The High Bay Clean Room boasts 1.3 million cubic feet of space – kept clean with 9,000 square feet of HEPA filters which last 50 years each (visible on the right of the photo). Humans are the biggest threat to clean rooms, “Before entering, workers pass through a set of “lobbies,” all responsible for keeping the clean room clean. In the first lobby, or vestibule, as engineers call it, walking across the floor feels like walking inside a movie theater. But that sticky texture doesn’t come from spilled soda. Adhesive floor mats trap loose dirt from employees’ shoes. The next stop is a small glass box a little larger than a phone booth where employees receive a forced-air shower. Dozens of air jets on the walls blow away loose debris from hair, skin and clothing. A green light indicates when it is safe to enter the last station, a larger area with lockers and benches. It is in this area where anyone intending to enter the clean room must don sterile bodysuits, head covers, gloves, boots and face masks, a painstaking process that can take upwards of 10 to 15 minutes.” No makeup, perfumes, or lotions may be worn by those entering a clean room.
James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Goddard
Inside the High Bay Clean Room currently, are parts for the James Webb Space Telescope – a HUMUNGOUS telescope that will hopefully launch in 2014 and will enable scientists to study the Universe at infra-red wavelengths. It is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). You can actually watch whats happening in the Clean Room through their webcams! JWST Science Instrument Manager, Scott Lambrose, filled the group in on the details of the massive “origami” telescope – nicknamed that due to its fold-out structural design.
Science Visualization Studio at NASA Goddard
After a short ride to another building, the “Tour & Tweeters” were led by Visualization Project Manager, Dr. Horace Mitchell to the NASA Center for Climate Simulation.The Scientific Visualization Studio is really a shrine to the 15 screen, 23-foot-wide by 10-foot tall liquid crystal display Hyperwall. All the visualizations created by the SVS (more than 2,900) are accessible to the public, and the “shows” as they are referred to are beautiful. (Photo below by @NASA_GoddardPix)
Despite the difficulty in traveling to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for many of the attendees and even one of the presenters (due to unusually heavy traffic) and the torrential downpour at the tour’s conclusion, all members of the inaugural “Tour and Tweet” group left with big smiles and kind words. It was a truly unique and fun experience. The Goddard staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the chosen participants were smart, and fun to tour the facilities with. Stay tuned for videos from the event and feel free to check out the Twitter hashtag #tourntweet to read what people wrote throughout the day as well as to see more photos! You can view some of the pics Corrie snapped on our Facebook page. You can view videos that Corrie took (with a tiny handheld consumer-level camera) on our YouTube Channel. They have been organized into a playlist.
Twitter Accounts you may be interested in: