Sunday, February 27, 2011

AMES NASATweetup–Future Flight Central (Mars)

Here’s a continuing post regarding the NASTweetup at Ames Research Facility. While we were in the Future Flight Central we got sent to Mars. Well not really, but it did look like it.

They loaded up images of Mars from the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. It was interesting seeing the different ways they landed.

NASATweetupAmes 070

NASATweetupAmes 053

Here’s  picture showing the deflated bag that protected the rover on impact with the planet.

NASATweetupAmes 054

NASATweetupAmes 055

NASATweetupAmes 056

NASATweetupAmes 057

NASATweetupAmes 058

NASATweetupAmes 059

NASATweetupAmes 060

NASATweetupAmes 061

NASATweetupAmes 062

NASATweetupAmes 063

NASATweetupAmes 064

NASATweetupAmes 065

NASATweetupAmes 066

NASATweetupAmes 067

Bounce marks left from where the protective cushion hit the surface of Mars.

NASATweetupAmes 069

It was great to see the surface of Mars with a 360 degree view. It definitely was better than seeing the planet on a computer screen.

This concludes my series of posts on the NASA Tweetup and the Ames Research Facility. If there is another Tweetup somewhat locally to me I’m sure to sign up. Thanks to all of the NASA public relations, researchers and scientists who made this event happen.

AMES NASATweetup–Future Flight Central (Earth)

Here’s a continuing post regarding the NASTweetup at Ames Research Facility. Another stop on the tour was the Future Flight Center (FFC). The FFC allows airport designers to get feedback from their designs before construction is started. The facility has two levels. In the first level pilots sit pretending to fly airplanes and interact with the air traffic controllers on the second floor. On the second floor the controllers are able to look at screens showing the view from the control tower.

NASATweetupAmes 071

On our visit a proposed airport outside of Las Vegas was being displayed.

NASATweetupAmes 040

The control tower had a fairly realistic view of the proposed airport with airplanes taking off and landing and scenes of the surrounding landscape.

NASATweetupAmes 041

NASATweetupAmes 042

Within the control tour are the same screens you’d expect to see in a real control tower. Here’s one screen showing the location of aircraft around the airport.

NASATweetupAmes 044

The system can show the airport during the day at night and with a variety of weather patterns.

NASATweetupAmes 049

NASATweetupAmes 052

Ames NASATweetup-Wind Tunnels

Here’s a continuing post regarding the NASTweetup at Ames Research Facility. The wind tunnels was probably my favorite part of the tour of the Ames Research Facility. It was definitely the part that I could relate to the most. At Ames there is about 25 wind tunnels from very small to gigantic. We got to tour the building with some smaller wind tunnels. The first wind tunnel we saw was the Lifesaver, or at least that what I’m calling it based on the paint job it’s got.

NASATweetupAmes 072

Sitting right next to the Lifesaver was Blue.

NASATweetupAmes 073

And then we went into another room with another wind tunnel. The tour guide, a NASA Mechanical Engineer, said this was the favorite one in the building because they could climb into it.

NASATweetupAmes 074

NASATweetupAmes 075

Within the room they has some of the items they have tested in the wind tunnel. Below is a picture of a ship.

NASATweetupAmes 077

Set up in the the wind tunnel was a Cosine cone (or it may have been a sine cone). It is either a cosine (or cosine) wave, then rotated 360 degrees to get the shape. WIth the cone they can then calibrate the wind tunnel and observe how the wind effects it. 

NASATweetupAmes 078

They also can put oil or pressure sensitive paint on it to see how the wind is going around the cone. The flow of air is laminar as it approaches and goes on the cone, then starts to become turbulent as it leaves the cone. They described some of the methods they use to observe the wind. With the smoke trails we’ve seen in commercials to the pressure sensitive paint.

The tour guide told us about some of the forces that affect wind tunnels. One of them is the friction between the wind and the sides of the wind tunnel. Using tube of plastic, we were able to hear the turbulence. Here’s a picture of someone doing just that.

NASATweetupAmes 079

A picture of a crane in the room of wind tunnels.

NASATweetupAmes 080

A picture of the Blue wind tunnel with a model of a dirty corvette. The setup was used in an episode of Mythbuster’s were they were testing if a dirty car got better gas mileage.

NASATweetupAmes 081

Here’s a blury picture of the another model used in the episode. If the picture came out clear you’d be able to see the divet like marks on a golf ball.

NASATweetupAmes 083

Here’s the results from the car experiments. I’m sure in the episode they had a cool computer graphic.

NASATweetupAmes 084

Here is a collection of some of the other models.

NASATweetupAmes 085

Here’s picture of the setup a bit farther away.

NASATweetupAmes 086

As we drove around the facility were able to see some of the other wind tunnels on the facility.

NASATweetupAmes 094NASATweetupAmes 095

The photos below are of one wind tunnel. The wind tunnel is large enough to test a full size 747.

NASATweetupAmes 093NASATweetupAmes 092NASATweetupAmes 100NASATweetupAmes 099NASATweetupAmes 091NASATweetupAmes 089NASATweetupAmes 090

AMES NASATweetup–Kepler

Here’s a continuing post regarding the NASTweetup at Ames Research Facility. The people at NASA were nice enough to add us to the welcome sign at the front of the facility. This post is in regard to our tour of the Kepler mission. The Kepler mission is exploring a portion of the universe for habitable planets.

NASATweetupAmes 104NASATweetupAmes 106NASATweetupAmes 102

The first stop was a presentation on what the Kepler mission is doing and how it is looking for planets.

NASATweetupAmes 035

It was fascinating hearing how they are using pixels from the cameral on the Kepler spacecraft and turning it into data that can be used to find planets. Now I was expecting a fairly good picture of the stars, but as you can see from the raw data in the picture below its just a series of pixels of different intensities. 

NASATweetupAmes 037

As they take more and more pictures of the same star they can get start to get patterns of the intensity of the pixels. As a planet or planets go in front of the star, the pixels start to get darker. In the above picture, below raw data you can see the output from the data. Each peak is the planet getting in front of the star. The data can be further explored to find additional planets going in front of the star. Based on the data they can determine what size planet it most likely is, and using data from other missions figure out what density the planet may be. Combining the data lets the scientists determine if they think the planet is habitable.

The data is downloaded from the Kepler spacecraft one a month for testing and once a quarter for all of the data collected in the quarter. The data is then transferred around the country, where it finally makes it to a server room in the building Kepler is housed in. In the server room (we got to see it, just no pictures for security concerns) it gets processed further. After the data is processed it is stored for future researchers to use. While the data is processed it is corrected based on any interference from the different tempreature differences in space.

Now I may not have gotten this all correct, but this is the general idea of the project.

Here’s an old structure in front of the building. It looked like it once provided protected electricity outlets.

NASATweetupAmes 039