Week 6: NASA Trip!

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Friday, July 12, 2013


Alexandra Day

The highlight of this week was our trip to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. We started our tour in the visitor center, where we saw a really neat display called “Science on a Sphere.” The idea behind the display was to simulate the appearance of a planet by projecting images onto a sphere, which was a highly effective way to convey complex information. We took imaginary tours of Jupiter, Mars, and the Sun, learned about Jupiter’s moons, and looked at the environmental impacts of global warming here on Earth. I think that one of the most important traits of a good scientist is to display data in a meaningful and interesting way, and “Science on a Sphere” made me think about how important data presentation is. From there, we went to a special town hall meeting with Charlie Bolden, the NASA administrator.

Afterwards, we met up with Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather for a special tour that included a visit to the largest clean room on earth! We also saw the wide-field camera that was inside the Hubble Space Telescope for fifteen years. Of the objects that have been returned to Earth from space, the wide-field camera has been in space the longest. We also got to see a huge centrifuge that has a diameter of about 100 feet and a vacuum test chamber for satellites. As usual, it was great to spend time with Dr. Mather. His enthusiasm for encouraging young scientists is wonderful, and he always gives us good advice.

Before we left, we also got to see where Alec and Darren work and hear about their projects. They both are doing really interesting work, and it was especially fun for me to hear about research going on at NASA and compare it to the research I see at NIST.

At work, I wrapped up my model and prepared to transition to data analysis. I’m glad that I had the chance to make a model and experience more of the theoretical side of physics. At the same time, I think it will be fun to start thinking about physics from a more experimental perspective. I’m also in the final stages of planning my tour of NIST for the other interns, so stay posted for an update about that at the end of this week!

Alexandra Day