Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Goddard Open House 2015

While we were camping in Greenbelt, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center had one of its rare open houses, letting the general public come on campus and see their exciting projects.

Getting to the Center was tricky. We went to a nearby parking lot from which they were busing in visitors. The only problem was they were screening people's bags before letting them on the buses. They had four screeners and two people putting on wrist bands for the return trip. If they had flipped the people it probably would have gone faster, but they really needed at least twice as many people. There were always two to five buses waiting for people to board. We stood in line for an hour and a half!

Standing in line

The end of the line

After we got to Goddard, we were starving so we went to their grassy area which had food vendors and other booths set up. My son wanted Chick-fil-A, which was fine with me.

The Mall at Goddard

The highlight of the booths there was Tesla Motor's Model S electric car, featuring storage space in the front and back of the vehicle. No test rides were allowed but still it was a popular spot.

Tesla Motors was very popular

Nothing under the hood

The trunk closed too quickly!

We walked past the Hubble Telescope Command Center (it had a long line) and went back to Building 7 and its neighbors. A lot of the really cool science happens there. The first area we visited had displays and interactive exhibits on optics, including using lenses for magnification and lasers for studying the properties of light.

Inside Building 7

A big-faced scout

Jay Leno chin?

A big smile

Lasers in water

Bending light down the water stream

Sparkling water or laser?

We also saw a thermal vacuum chamber where the scientists ensure equipment and small satellites can withstand the rigors of outer space.

Thermal vacuum chamber

Further on is the Space Environment Simulator (SES) which does the same job for much larger objects. Originally built in the 1960s, the SES has undergone many upgrades so that it is still state of the art.

Space Environment Simulator on right

Nearby is a small clean room where scientists build smaller parts and instruments for use in space. The room is kept free of contaminants so that the instruments won't have faulty readings.

Clean room

The Wallops Flight Facility Balloon Program was showing off its equipment and explaining how they use balloons to do research and make scientific discoveries.

Balloons for science!

More sciency stuff

The star of the open house was the large clean room where they are building the James Webb Space Telescope as a companion to the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble is gathering data in the visible light spectrum, the Webb will gather data in the infrared. We had to wait in yet another line to go up to the second story observation room. It was worth the wait.

Crowding in to see the construction

The clean room

The skeleton (and the social media links)

Two scientists were in the clean room and had headsets so they could answer questions from the second floor onlookers. We asked about the cost (eight billion dollars) and the launch time (in 2018).

There's three people down there! Can you spot them?

Close up

Model of the finished product

We were wiped out from all the lines by that point, so we headed back toward the buses. On the way, we discovered why the lines were so bad. Even people from a galaxy far, far away came to the Goddard Space Flight Center!

Posing with out of towners

No comments:

Post a Comment