Monday, March 23, 2015

Exploring the Heavens and the Skies: Space Geek at the Air Show

I'm working on a blog post co-written by my husband the PhD economist about the market and profitability of the space industry. I've had little free time to write, so it will be delayed. But in the meantime...

You can take me to an air show and surround me by awesome planes (and make me envious of aerobatic demo pilots), but you can't take the space geek out of me. This weekend was the Melbourne Air Show. Northrop Grumman was showing off it's beautiful X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS/UAS/UAV/drone). But Northrop Grumman also had a tent with display models of other hardware and I wanted to pose with the model of the James Webb Space Telescope.

I saw those neat hexagonal mirrors up close in a clean room at Marshall Space Flight Center’s X-ray and Cryogenic Facility. During the summer of 2005, I was attending my first NASA internship at MSFC with NASA Academy, and tours were aplenty. I remember thinking that the mirrors are larger than I expected and interestingly shaped. The mirrors also looked so delicate despite their size. I was curious about what the guys in the bunnysuits were up to and I wished that I could get inside the clean room. Little did I know that a few years later, I'd try my hand at making X-ray telescope mirrors at MSFC, but that's a story for another time.

There's a lot of controversy over the expense and delay of JWST, currently scheduled for launch in 2018. When we think of the Hubble Space Telescope, we don't usually remember the expense and the delays. Instead, we appreciate the beautiful glimpses of our Universe and the science that's being done from these observations. And so it will be with JWST, should it ever launch. What we learn from Hubble and other space observatories inspired me to go to school for astrophysics and question the nature of our universe.

There is similarity between drones and space telescopes. Both conduct remote sensing to gather information. When I worked with the International Space Station, one of my projects was to think about all of the work currently being done in remote sensing by aircraft and spacecraft alike.

Yes, I did pose with the X-37B with my husband and my dad. And because I can, here's one of my shots of the Blue Angels.

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