Friday, October 30, 2015

Science and Sights around Kennedy Space Center

What a better way to wrap up a week and a month than to share with you some cool sights around Kennedy Space Center I've seen in the past week? Sometimes I don't know what I'll spot.

The Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF), where I worked for a summer a few years back, hosts many interesting projects and labs, many of which have nothing to do with the International Space Station. I visited a scientist who is interested in flying NASA life science payloads on various microgravity missions, including parabolic flight. While I was in the building, I met with an engineer who is diving into the world of geology, planetary science, and plant growth and loving every minute of it.

Vials of Mars regolith simulant

A diversity of rocks from the Mojave Desert

Lettuce and cabbage grown in various Mars regolith simulants

Our mutual colleague in the same group allowed me to play with his pocket vials of Mars regolith simulants (fake Mars dirt) JSC-Mars-1A and sand from the Mojave Desert in California. While conducting experimentation for my doctoral research, I played with JSC-Mars-1, but not the other. NASA is resurrecting long-shelved research to grow plants in Mars regolith simulant in preparation for future human missions to Mars. Anyone up for growing potatoes on Mars?

Mars mania at the NASA SSPF gift shop.

Above the S3 Florida office in the Space Life Sciences Laboratory is a scientist who specializes in Martian life conditions, Andy Schuerger. In his lab, he is able to recreate Martian conditions such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, and radiation levels. He also has the largest collection of Mars regolith simulant that I've ever seen. For anyone wanting to know about the survivability of life on Mars, he's one to talk to.

Chamber for replicating Martian conditions

Mars regolith simulant galore!

On one rainy afternoon, I caught sight of a low rainbow on the water horizon not far from the giant Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) while driving on NASA Causeway. So pretty!

Rainbow on the horizon

I had wanted to end this entry with a photo of a rocket launch, but that will have to wait. Go Atlas!

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