At the end of NASA Glenn’s NASA Tweetup this March (my recaps here and here), I was blown away by all that NASA has done for the world, as well as all that NASA Glenn has done for the Greater Cleveland community. For their second social media gathering, NASA Glenn planned to take part in a six-center NASA Social about the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Each NASA field center had a part in making yesterday’s landing on Mars a HUGE success and the employees at NASA Glenn definitely did their jobs. I was ready to roll when selected for this exclusive opportunity that took place on August 3, 2012.
As I’m quickly learning that rocket scientists really enjoy early wake up calls, I got myself moving in time to make through the security check and registration process by 7:45AM.
The 30 or so tweeters were transported onto the base where we were greeted by NASA Glenn’s Center Director Ray Lugo and my favorite astronaut Greg Johnson (AKA @Astro_Box). We had a few moments to mingle about the Briefing Center – where I got to meet and chat about yoga with the lovely @katrobison – before boarding our buses to start our tours for the morning.
The blue bus headed first to the 10×10 Wind Tunnel to tour its facilities.
From the NASA Glenn site: The 10×10 was specifically designed to test supersonic propulsion components such as inlets and nozzles, propulsion system integration, and full-scale jet and rocket engines.
The supersonic parachute used in the Mars Curiosity landing was tested here in Cleveland – in that tunnel!
From there, our group headed over to the Sensors Lab:
I’m still shocked I managed to not press any buttons on this part of the tour.
The NASA Glenn’s Sensor Lab did not work on any part of the Mars Curiosity project, but they have worked on one of the previous Mars missions. Here on earth, they have worked on robots for the Cleveland Fire Department.
Next up on the blue bus’ tour: the Stirling Lab…
…where we learned about the advanced radioisotope generator (ASRG). NASA scientists are still determining which deep space mission options it can be used for in the future.
Back on the bus, we found ourselves in another building that housed the Simulated Lunar Operations (SLOPE) Facility:
Yes, that’s a sandbox and a motorized vehicle in that building. So. So. Cool. We learned more about the tires on the rovers:
..and how they simulate lunar soil:
After a quick visit to the Exchange Gift Store (Hans now knows what to get me for Christmas), we lunched with @ClevelandChick. If you are not already following this AWESOME lady, do it now. We chatted about a bit of everything, but couldn’t help but discuss the upcoming Browns season and her recent visit to training camp.
Back in the Briefing Center, we settled in for the Multi-Center Social/News Conference out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California:
Each NASA Social participant also got the chance to take advantage of a few photo opportunities:
The news conference gave participants from all six centers the opportunity to ask questions to the participants at PSL, as well as watch the very intense video describing Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror. With so much uncertainty, it’s astonishing that yesterday’s landing went as well as it could have.
After the conference, NASA Glenn Mars expert Geoff Landis spoke about the challenges of landing on Mars and how his interest in science fiction provided him to an entry to science at an early age.
In what felt like a blink of an eye, our day was done and we were back off the base to our cars. Luckily, these NASA Social participants were quite social and the festivities continued over at the 100 Bomb Group. With nearly half of the participants at one long dinner table, Hans and I sat with dinner organizer @KelleyApril – an experienced NASA Tweetup participant. Our hungry bellies full, it was the perfect end to the perfect space day!
LONG STORY SHORT: The staff at NASA Glenn is quickly getting the hang of having all us crazy social media folks on base! Their team did a wonderful job coordinating this NASA Social and I know each in the future will continue to be better than the next. Congrats to all at NASA on the successful landing of Mars Science Laboratory. We look forward to all its upcoming data and what it will mean for future space exploration!