Monday, June 18, 2012
Monday started as all other Mondays: the alarm went off too early for everyone after a relaxing weekend. Upon arriving at Glenn, everyone in the academy went about his or her individual research, as there was nothing scheduled through the Academy that day. Dennis and Daniel ReMine had eye appointments in the morning to see if they had any preexisting conditions before beginning to work with lasers in the lab. Basically, NASA doesn’t want to get sued for something that their lasers didn’t cause. Because the exam is intensive, they both needed to have their eyes dilated, which also meant sitting/napping in a dimly lit room for about a half hour after the exam. It started raining as the students headed over to the RAP session after work, which was to take place at a conference room in Glenn. The dreary weather combined with the hour-long meeting after work seemed to sap most people’s energy, so everyone had a pretty calm night at the hotel after work.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
On the way to work, Steve realized that he forgotten his ID at the hotel about 500 feet from the gate. Luckily, the hotel is only 5 minutes away, so the group wasn’t late to work that morning. Again, there were no talks planned, so it was a productive day to get work done on everyone’s individual research. Steve and Dennis, along with their mentor Dr. Sarah Tedder, were able to get their laser optics path and aerosol generator set up and running. Somewhat miraculously, they were actually able to capture signal from the droplets, which was extremely exciting after reading and setting up for two weeks. Dennis and Steve were supposed to have a softball game in the NASA softball league, but it was cancelled officially because the fields were somewhat wet from the day before and their team didn’t have enough players. Most of the guys went for a ran after work directly from work to the hotel. This group included Daniel Kakaley, who chose probably the hottest day so far to go for a run the first time in Cleveland. Otherwise, the night was pretty uneventful with a lot of the guys at least watching the NBA finals game in their rooms.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
It was the middle of the week! It’s all downhill from here right? After the usual struggle to get everyone together to drive to work, another day of research began. Again, the day was mostly business as usual, though there was a lunch talk from Dr. Zimmerli entitled Turbulent Fluctuations. His discussion on cutting edge turbulent flow measurements was interesting, and it extended lunch by about a half hour. It’s amazing how far we have come in fundamental aeronautics research, and it’s good that people at NASA are still finding ways to improve our understanding of aerodynamics. After lunch, everyone returned to work to continue a productive day of research. After work, Macie, Melanie, Harkirat, Steve, Reed, Dennis, and Daniel R. went rock climbing at a gym on the east side of Cleveland. Since Daniel had experience, he showed the rest of the group some tips and tricks and helped along the way. After a lot of blisters, some falls, and sore forearms, the group enjoyed the free picnic after climbing and returned to the hotel. Daniel stayed behind to continue climbing and rode back with some people from the Space Academy who had joined later.
Some people from the Aeronautics and Space Academies went to the Harry Buffalo to help Reed Abraham celebrate his birthday. At about midnight, everyone had the sad realization that they had to get up for work in about 7 hours, so they decided to head back.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
The alarms went off at 7:00 AM as always, and, somewhat surprisingly, everyone awoke without too much difficulty, although the snooze button was certainly used by at least a few people. During work, there was a talk at 10:30 by Michael Patterson entitled “Next-Generation Electric Propulsion Thruster Concept” about new concepts in electric spacecraft propulsion. Because there were a fair number of interns in attendance, Mr. Patterson gave a very helpful overview of electric propulsion. This type of propulsion is very important for all long-term spacecraft, including satellites and deep space and planetary exploration missions because of its incredibly high specific impulse when compared to chemical propellants. He also described a new concept that is being developed to hopefully combine the best parts of both ion and Hall Effect thrusters. The Academy students met for lunch after the talk and then returned to work. After work, everyone went shopping and packed for the camping trip. Also, some people watched the Heat win the NBA championship, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone in Cleveland. Otherwise, it was a pretty ordinary night at the hotel.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Friday marked the day of departure to Ohiopyle, PA, for our camping trip after work.
Within an hour after leaving work, “country car” (the car playing country music) comprising of Dennis, Steve, and Macie, had already departed with shocking speed and vigor, faster than you could yell, “AMERICA!” Anticipating a veritable miasma of transportation confusion, Dennis swiftly rang Heath on the phone, ensuring that the remaining Aeronauts would have some means of making their way to the weekend getaway. Luckily, events for the next hour passed with notably less tension, as everyone finished their packing arrangements.
VIPR Car (Reed, Dan, Nathaniel, and Melanie) and the Bullit (Heath, Harkirat, and Taichi) departed the suites about an hour later.
VIPR Car, driven by Reed Abraham, took a steady rate, hindered only a bit by moderate construction zones and light traffic. The music played and the conversation flowed; our first destination was Allison Park, a suburb North of Pittsburgh, and my home. Luckily, Reed’s family had a tent, a sleeping bag, and a few other bits of camping kit on hand. The VIPR car reached Reed’s home after cutting through the scenic Wexford suburbs, picked up the gear, and had a hearty dinner of pizza. Reed’s brief family reunion was, of course, enjoyable as well.
The second leg of the journey for VIPR car wound through the inner-Pittsburgh highways, including the “tubes”, the tunnels leading through the mountains that separate the city from the Southern towns. Since Reed was driving his car at his own expense (not getting reimbursed for gas by the Academy budget), it was ok for VIPR car to take a short detour to Reed’s house to pick up camping supplies before making it to the campground. True believers held their breath for the entire duration of the tunnel, a ritual partaken by all occupants of the VIPR car, including the driver, Reed until he realized that limiting his oxygen intake while controlling a packed vehicle moving at 60 MPH was a terrible idea. The other occupants of VIPR car slowly reached their respective thresholds of asphyxia with the exception of Daniel (Dan) Kakaley. Dan held his breath against all odds for the entire duration of the tunnel, assuredly suffering some degree of brain damage; such is the price of eternal glory. The remainder of the drive was fairly uneventful, save for passing a Bently dealership. The VIPR car briefly considered snagging one for an extended weekend test drive before the idea was quashed beneath the weight of reason.
About an hour later, VIPR car arrived at the campground. Mapless and directionless, they wandered over the rough dirt roads in the dark, using headlamps to examine potential side-routes. Fifteen minutes of stumbling, a close encounter with a swamp, a static-filled call to Molly, and a meeting with a pair of inebriated, but friendly fellows later, they had a map and somewhat of an idea of where to go. Minutes later, VIPR car arrived at the campground, the last to arrive.
As the VIPR team dumped their equipment from the trusty Fit’s (Reed’s car’s) trunk, Reed assessed the current state of events. By appearances, the other cars had done a great job of setting up a camp-ground, despite being in near complete darkness. Dan, Nate, and Reed began to setup a location for their tents.The tents arose with stunning rapidity and efficiency. After arranging the interiors, Reed suggested that Dan, Nate, and him all go for a walk.
Their walk featured encounters with campers from another ground. They were nearly mistaken for a vehicle by some gentlemen due to their headlamps, which made them the target of several death –threats, which were quickly retracted in favor of offers of Yuengling and smores. The Academites respectfully declined and continued with their walk.
It was at this point that the Academites looked skyward; Reed was met with a sight that gave some inkling of worth to the trip. Being from the depths of surburbia, and living mostly in high population density areas and/or areas prone to overcast skies and inclement weather, Reed could not remember the last time he had seen the skies so clear. Constellations were perfectly visible, as was the milky way. While stargazing, the Academites saw three shooting stars. Content with the view, they returned and decided to call it a night.
Saturday, June 23, , 2012
Reed awoke Saturday staring at the condensation-spattered walls of my tent. The ground was still rough. Breakfast was served, and plans were laid out on how to go about the upcoming day. Hiking and spelunking were on the agenda; lunch would happen sometime between the two.
Hiking through the woods allowed the Academites an up-close and personal encounter with the forests of Pennsylvania, dense and temperate, as is most of the North East. The trail also featured a decent gradient; the walking was somewhat challenging. The path was worth the effort however, as it ended at quite the overlook: the rolling hills of Pennsylvania covered in trees. The Academites sat down and ate lunch perched on the rocks above the valley.
Spelunking at Laurel Caverns was a short time after that. The Academies’ Spelunking guide, Ben, more commonly known by his chosen nick name Shaggy, gave a brief safety overview. A quick trek through the well-lit sections of cave led the group to the entrance of the “lower caves”. The lights came on, and the group boldly ventured forth into the depths. Shaggy proved a capable and entertaining guide for those sticking towards the front of the pack, often giving choices of route, roughly simplified to: “easy”, “challenging”, and “you’re going to get wet”. For the truly adventurous, there was no choice. The less daring could stay comfortable and dry. As Kathleen of Space Academy put it, “I paid good money to crawl through a cave. I’m getting my money’s worth.”
The caving experience, in a nutshell, culminated in the “mailslot”, and another passage shortly thereafter, involving low-crawling through a passage not much wider and higher than your prone body through 40 degree running water. Many Academites emerged from the caverns soaked and coated with a fine layer of sand, tired, but happy. It was impressive that Nate, Steve, Dennis, and Heath (being the taller ones in the group) got through some of the tighter sections. The group quickly changed into clean dry clothes and departed for the Academy’s next destination: a natural waterslide. As it turns out, the natural waterslide was a very rocky environment. Many comments were heard from those that partook, most notably, “OUCH!” and “OH GOD!” The environment also proved a slick one, as Macie inexplicably lost traction and acquainted herself with terra-firma, despite being completely stationary at the time. The slide lost its luster rather quickly, but not before plenty of footage of academy students sliding, tumbling, and flailing down the falls was captured.
The group returned that evening to the campground for dinner. Initially, the fire proved difficult to start. Luckily, Reed had experience with these situations. Liberal use of lighter fluid solved the issue in time for the arrival of extra firewood. Within minutes, the fire was raging, and surrounded by tin-foil packets containing tasty bits. Highlights of the evening included many a good conversation, Spencer’s live guitar by the bonfire and Steve’s and Macie’s perfectly crafted smores. At some point in the evening, Reed tossed two boxes of Hostess products into the frayThe treats vanished before my eyes.
The night’s soundtrack was initially country music, blasted from Heath’s mustang. As patriotism levels reached an all-time high, a few Space Academy members complained about the tunes, which were disabled on a quiet-hours rule technicality, in exchange for light acoustic guitar around the campfire. The country music did not return.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Dan and Reed awoke early, and started packing immediately. Nate was next to rise, and as Reed tetris’ed the Fit’s hatchback section, the two other gentlemen attempted to awaken the fourth member of the VIPR team, Melanie.
Dan and Reed neatly arranged their organized breakfast of cereal bars and pop-tarts for the academies. They awaited for all the drivers to wake up before confirming everyone had a ride back, at which point VIPR car departed. The journey home was quiet, aside from a short-stop at one of Reed’s preferred breakfast places at home- the Original Pancake House.
The rest of the evening was quiet, aside from the glorious first shower after a camping trip and the frantic laundering of dirty clothing. Our trip to California was approaching soon in less than 2 days.