Week 8: Tours of NASA and Capitol Hill

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Monday, August 1, 2016


Victoria DiTomasso

The heat and humidity greatly influenced my activities this weekend. Saturday afternoon I walked to the grocery store and decided that I wasn’t going to head outside again for a while. Saturday night, Dahlia and I had dinner delivered and hung out in the air conditioning. On Sunday, I met up with a friend who is doing research at the University of Maryland. We went to the National Postal Museum and to the National Museum of the American Indian.

National Museum of the American Indian

I got a fair amount of work done at ACP this week, considering we had two tours that took us out of the office. I started writing a lesson plan that was inspired by Wanda Diaz Merced’s TED talk. She is a blind astronomer who studies sonified astronomical data. The lesson plan will have students watch a portion of her TED talk and it will call their attention to the ableist (discrimination in favor of non-disabled people) aspects of the scientific community. I think this will be our first lesson plan to reach beyond racial and gender diversity in the physical sciences and start addressing other realms of inclusion. In addition to working on that lesson plan, I revised some of the new lesson plans that the other AIP history interns have been writing, Sam and I wrote the abstract for our final presentation, and we met with the web design team about the website that our teaching guides will be published on.

Although my time at ACP was productive, our time touring NASA and the Hill were more exciting. On Wednesday morning all of us SPS interns at WISH followed Dahlia on her commute to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. While we were there, we got to see Dahlia’s lab, take a peek at the James Webb Space Telescope, see the machines they use to test if their technology could survive the extreme conditions of space, check out their annual Science Jamboree and look in on the Hubble Space Telescope control room.

Space Environment Simulator at NASA Goddard

We had our tour of Capitol Hill on Friday. Tabitha, Vanessa, Dahlia and I decided to get going early to make a stop at Baked & Wired, a cupcake and coffee shop in Georgetown. After cupcakes for breakfast, we met up with the other interns at a NASA Planetary Society briefing, at which representatives from the Planetary Society went over what they are working on now and talked about their future funding needs. From there, we went on a tour of the Capitol and ate lunch there. Then we got to speak with Dick Obermann, the Democratic Chief of Staff for the House Committee on Space, Science, and Technology, as well as Adam Rosenberg, the Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Energy. Both the briefing and our conversation at the end of the day were interesting and educational. I had very little understanding of how science and policy interact on a day-to-day basis and I definitely have a better idea now.

View of the Capitol from inside the Capitol

After our official tour, Tabitha, Marissa, Jose and I went to the Library of Congress and to the Supreme Court. Then we headed to Union Station so that Marissa could catch a train home for the weekend. Tabitha, Jose and I went to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, where they have jazz every Friday night. Later in the evening, Dahlia, Jose, Vanessa and I went out for burgers. At dinner, I had my first (and last) experience with hot honey. Turns out, it’s not warm like hot fudge, it’s spicy like peppers.

The Library of Congress

Victoria DiTomasso