August 3, 2012
Since the beginning of the Space Race in the 1950s, Johnson Space Center (JSC) has been the spotlight for space and manned space explorations. The privilege to visit JSC during the 2012 NASA Academy is an experience never to be forgotten. Touring JSC’s highly specialized facilities for manned space flight amazed many Academy RAs. The pure nostalgia JSC radiates obviously inspires many young minds to pursue technical careers.
The JSC tour consisted of brief lectures and demonstrations about various biomedical laboratories, space food, mission control, robotics, Saturn V and Lockheed’s Orion. The first stop of the day began at the visitor center as we awaited our host. Eventually, our host arrived and the Academy continued to the shuttle bus for our first tour at the Space Food Systems Laboratory. Surprisingly, after a long winded presentation about Space food, it is safe to conclude that Space food is actively being researched to improve the shelf life and increase variety. Shortly after, the tour proceeded to the laboratories encompassing “Usability Testing and Analysis Facility” and “Anthropometry and Biomechanics Facility”. The Usability Testing and Analysis Facility evaluate the usability of interfaces for work areas and equipment, while the Anthropometry and Biomechanics Facility demonstrated their laser technique to examine biomechanics and ergonomics for Astronauts.
The next stops for the tour were the various control centers. The control centers consisted of Mission, Space Shuttle Flight, International Space Station Flight, Apollo Era Mission Operations, and Blue Flight control centers. The control rooms were impressive due to the amount of technology invested and the shear man-power required to run each Space program. Regardless of the admiration each Academy intern had for the control centers, the tour proceeded to the “Human Health & Performance” section of the tour. That tour contained laboratory visits for “Exercise Physiology and Countermeasures” and “Cardiovascular Physiology.” Surprisingly, majority of those laboratories enlightened everyone about the importance of exercise and cardiovascular fitness in Space. Nonetheless, we moved on to the neurosciences portion of the tour and found the test equipment amazing for inducing disorientation effects upon human participants. Finally, the moment that everyone was waiting for entailed the International Space Station Mock Up, Robonaut, Saturn V and the Orion tour. Simply, the sight and detailed discussions were exciting to see our nation’s best work in person.
Visiting many of the Space laboratories at NASA JSC was an exciting experience and mesmerizing. In the evening, we organized a fantastic dinner with NASA Academy alumni and spent most of the night soaking up Texas heat. In conclusion, the trip to Houston was overflowing with activities and heat. By the end of the day, the majority of the interns were ready to head back to Ohio’s “humble” weather.