"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Monday, July 30, 2012

NASA Social: Priming for my Visit

I am beginning to touch base online with fellow bloggers/tweeters who I will mingle with at NASA Glenn Research Center on August 3rd. We have been invited to preview the upcoming landing of the Mars Science Laboratory. The hotel room is reserved. A notepad and backup batteries for my camera are purchased. Two forms of government ID are ready. I even have my super-geek-space-tourist outfit picked out. Childe Jake's upcoming visit to NASA is getting real!

Introducing Glenn Research Center

Glenn's hanger and main gate as seen in April of 1999 

For any given citizen, a natural question might be this: If it's not the center where they launch the astronauts (Kennedy), and it's not the center astronauts call when they "have a problem" (Houston, more properly called Johnson Space Center), then what is it and why are we paying for it? The truth is I am a lifelong space enthusiast and even I am not well-versed in the various NASA centers. So I am excited to visit Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and obliterate a big hunk of that disconnect.

According to Glenn's About page, the center "designs, develops, and tests" technology for both air and space travel. How appropriate then to be named after a native Ohian who has excelled in both air and space: John H. Glenn. The center has been in operation since 1941, currently employs over 3,000 people, and its reach extends economically and academically into the surrounding region. Even if you don't give a special darn for space exploration, perhaps you or someone you love has flown on an airplane that got better mileage than older planes, caused less air and noise pollution, and didn't crash. If you did, thanks are likely owed in part to the folks at Glenn!

A Glenn test facility prepares to simulate and examine jet engine icing

Browsing the many webpages showcasing research at Glenn makes me think this center is a Discovery Channel reality show waiting to happen. The work at Glenn is not as immediately sexy as the heroics dramatized in films like The Right Stuff and Apollo 13; however, research at Glenn is what makes such exploration feasible. And of course, it benefits air travel as well.

Take the above image, with NASA trying to determine how it is that high altitude ice crystals can be sucked into a jet engine, melt, and then refreeze...while still in the engine. Yes, let's figure that one out in the name of preventing engine flameouts.

Did I mention that Glenn Research Center has an Emmy Award to its credit? Now I have. Thanks to NASA for use of the above photos!

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