Monday brings the start of our first full week of work, and it was a marked contrast compared to last week. Unlike our first arrival to Lewis Field, greeted and awed by the iconic and grandiose hangar with “Glenn Research Center” boldly spelled out above the large sliding doors, we now always enter the base through the much more inconspicuous back entrance where we encounter less traffic. Today at work, Mike, Nomita, Raul, and Rebecca saw a cool hybrid electric distributed propulsion simulation rig in one of the blast door test rooms in building 5. Monday also started the Father’s day sale at the GRC exchange shop. RAs from both academies stormed the small store immediately following lunch and about half of us all walked away with identical black jackets emboldened with the NASA logo, along with presents for parents, siblings, and friends. After work, we had a group dinner at an Indian-Chinese fusion restaurant where we all shared food and held our second weekly RAP session, detailing our exciting weekend camping plans. Nomita impressed us all by ordering her dish extra spicy, but it was still nowhere spicy enough for her!
From the week before and the days leading up to today, you’ve all heard of the pain and struggle that Danny and GaRam are going through with “Pointwise.” Well, not really a pain or struggle but sometimes frustrating nonetheless.
In the afternoon, GaRam and Danny had the privilege of listening to Bryan Palaszewski. He is currently directing experimental and analytical research on high performance propellants. Through his lecture he discussed advanced propulsion concepts and the future of propulsion.
After the lecture, GaRam went back to work, doing CFD grid generation until it was time for them to leave. CFD grid generation is a complicated process, contrary to what it may seem like compared to other forms of research. The purpose of CFD is to model the flow of a fluid, in this case air, over a certain geometrical object. The results obtained from the CFD code can be compared to experimental data that has been collected but CFD is also used to predict flow perturbations in cases which experimental data is either too expensive to acquire or simply not feasible. GaRam worked on getting CFD solutions for unconventional aircraft configurations this past year. Here at NASA, Danny and GaRam are trying to get accurate CFD solutions of 3D ice accretions on the leading edge of a wing section. They have to first create a surface mesh of cells around the geometry, in this case the ice accreted wing section, and then create the volume mesh of cells. This process is long and tedious and requires a lot of thought and work. That’s why CFD grid generation is basically all that they’re doing right now.
GaRam doesn’t want to make it seem like our research is terrible and they’re getting nowhere. GaRam and Danny are making good progress and they are learning things every day. After getting back from work, GaRam was trying to figure out with Chris on how they were getting food for the lecture that Dr. Landis was going to present. GaRam ended up getting seven pizzas from Pizza Hut because they were doing a $5.55 special deal for a one topping pizza. GaRam arrived at 5:33 PM with Kyle calling him right as he was in the elevator. He got the pizza distributed and then GaRam poorly introduced Dr. Landis. He mixed up so many words. Dr. Landis however did not mix up any words and gave his presentation on the potential future explorations of Venus.
After the presentation from Dr. Landis, a group of the academies went down to metro park to play some ultimate Frisbee. The group consisted of Jacob, Kier, Chris, Danny, Max, Mike, Nikhil, Nathan, and GaRam. When they got there, they saw the weekly NASA group playing ultimate but they were in a game so they decided to play our own. The group borrowed some cones and set up their field. Since they had nine people in total, Jacob started off being all offense, meaning he would always play offense. Soon after, he stuck with one team and it turned to be 5v4. It was a very fun game but the whole group was very tired. Clearly most of them are out of shape. Gotta work on that cardio!
After ultimate, the aero got together for a short group project meeting to report what they had done since their last meeting. GaRam was working on learning about Cassini and how the aerial vehicle would communicate to Cassini and how it communicates to Earth. Mike and Danny were looking into different airfoils and Andrew was grinding away at his engine code to see if methane-breathing is possible. A good shower and some rest came after the meeting and then it was good night.
Our Wednesday workday passed slowly as we all eagerly awaited rock climbing in the evening, but our carefully laid plans fell into disarray as the day went on. The revelation of a required delay test disenchanted most of us, but no fear, our all-knowing L/OM Kyle could surely educate us beforehand as he had his own climbing equipment and years of experience. After getting back from work and changing, we all met in the hotel to await word from Kyle, who was mysteriously nowhere to be found. Texts and calls were made, but only met with silence. We talked to Jacob (Space Academy’s L/OM) and learned of the extravagant prices of the rock climbing gym. Still no word from Kyle, the rock climbing plan fell apart faster than a house of cards in Cleveland’s breezy weather. Some of us went to the gym instead and Nomita impressed everyone again with her superior Zumba dance workout skills. After returning to the hotel, we learned that of all things, our rock climbing plan fell apart because Kyle overslept! He wasn’t feeling so well so we all understood, but we still give him flak for it whenever we have the chance. After the gym workout, we all met to work on our group Titan aircraft project. Despite some frustrations, we came up with some probe dropping ideas, including a plan for building prototypes to deploy from Mike’s RC plane, and found more information supporting our methane breathing propulsion idea. As we all started heading off to bed, some of us were suddenly alarmed by Tornado warning alerts we received on our phones. TV weather information conflicted with online weather predictions, but a Doppler radar map clearly showed the storm would swing North of North Olmsted and miss us. Danny, Andrew, and Mike stood out in-front of the hotel in the eerie calm before the storm and discussed space exploration while observing the fantastic light show in the clouds off in the distance.
Danny and GaRam go to work as per usual. They always try to find a good parking spot, one right in front of the icing building. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Once inside, Danny and GaRam start gridding as usual but today they got an email giving them confirmation on their RSA tokens. These tokens give us a 6-digit number code that allows them to connect to the NAS (NASA Advanced Supercomputing) system. Typically, a CFD grid has millions of cells and requires intensive amount of memory and computing power to run. Therefore, the CFD grid is usually run on a cluster of computing cores that are high performance and have access to a lot of memory. NAS is NASA’s computing cluster. With these RSA tokens, GaRam and Danny can log on to NAS and run our CFD grids once they finish them. On that matter, they made a lot of progress on the CFD grids. Being very meticulous about the whole griding process, GaRam was at least able to generate the surface grid for the rime ice wing geometry. To briefly describe the geometry, for a straight wing there can be two different types of icing that accreted onto the wing; rime and horned. Rime ice accretion happens at colder temperatures and the ice builds up more or less in the chord-wise direction of the wing. Imagine a very rough-surfaced slat. That’s sort of what a rime ice accretion looks like. A horned ice accretion is drastically different than the rime. Looking down the wing in the span-wise direction, the icing forms two horns above and below the leading edge — hence the name, horned ice accretion. With that description in mind, both geometries require an immense number of cells to accurately depict the geometry. So, completing the surface grid was a major achievement. That took virtually the whole day and they left before GaRam could complete the volume grid but before they left GaRam created his NAS account and now he’s able to log in to the NAS system.
After they got back from work, Max, Danny, and GaRam went to work out at the gym. They all decided that they wanted to work out consistently so Max guided Danny and GaRam to doing a chest and triceps workout. It was indeed a very heavy workout. The immediate effects were exhaustion and hunger but that was the light part. It was the next day that they truly felt the effects of the workout and it was not a pleasant one.
Friday! It’s the day the Academy goes to Pittsburgh to visit Astrobotic Technology and then their camping site. It’s the last day of work for week 2. All of the Academites went to work for an hour and a half and this time. At 9:20 a.m. all of the Academites met at the hanger parking lot to head off to Pittsburgh. The drive was okay. Long distance driving is never quite fun for the driver as it is for the passengers. GaRam, Danny, Nomita, and Rebecca listened and sang to music and the non-drivers slept along the way. They stopped by in some city that started with the letter “C” for lunch at Chipotle around 11:30 a.m. Then they headed off into Pittsburgh. GaRam’s car was the first one to make it, then Nathan, Jacob, and finally Elizabeth. Astrobotic Technology was located in the industrial/cultural part of town. At Astrobotics, the president, John Thornton, gave a tour of their lunar rover and spoke to us about their plans to win the Google Lunar X PRIZE challenge. After Astrobotics we headed to Carnegie Mellon University to tour the other half of the X PRIZE project, the lander. It was pretty large and had four golden spheres that didn’t look too spiffy at all. But the group learned later on that those were models for the fuel tanks and oxygen tanks that will eventually fit into the lander. We also saw a cool balancing robot called Ballbot.
After Ballbot, the Academites left Carnegie Mellon for dinner. No knowing where he was going and with traffic at the peak of rush hour, GaRam ended up going to the wrong Bob Evans Restaurant for dinner. Meanwhile, GaRam believed Nathan’s car went straight for the campsite while Jacob and met for dinner at a different Bob Evans. GaRam eventually headed to the campsite. At the campsite, his car passed the checkpoint building and searched for Nathan’s car. After failing to find Nathan’s car, the group went back, realized they had to check in and pay, got a map, and eventually found F17, the Academy’s campsite. There, they unpacked a bit but had to wait for Jacob to get to the campsite to setup the tent. They made a fire while they were waiting. After all the cars arrived, everyone made s’mores, and GaRam didn’t remember much after that. He went to sleep warm and woke up cold the next day.
We awoke Saturday to a cold and damp morning inside our tents. Danny, whose humorously small child-sized sleeping bag that went up to half his height, had an especially cold awakening. Nonetheless, about half of the Aeronautics Academy woke up to prepare breakfast and were greeted by a dense fog outside. The sleepers remaining in the tent were eventually awakened by the increasing laughter of those attempting to start a fire, boil water, and scramble eggs. We huddled around our picnic tables, all in states of dishevelment that clearly showed we were camping, and munched on bagels, oatmeal, and scrambled eggs. The fog slowly gave way to sunlight and warmth. Rebecca and Nomita were persuaded to go caving, and as soon as everyone had long pants and long sleeved shirts on, we headed off to go spelunking.
Laurel Caverns was overrun with Boy Scout troops when we arrived, but we still managed to acquire a guided tour for all of us without a reservation. Unfortunately, Kyle was still not feeling up to speed and stayed behind at the campsite. The cave tour required everyone to carry two sources of light, and the gift shop had no reservations about capitalizing on this requirement on unsuspecting tourists. After everyone was ready to go, we met our cave guide, Ben, who coincidentally had also guided the NASA Glenn Academies for the past two years. After a safety spiel from Ben, we donned our hard hats and entered the deep tombs of Earth. Immediately, the temperature dropped about 20-30 degrees as the humidity rose to almost 100%, and we slowly started our descent 45 stories into the Earth. Fascinating cave formations surrounded us, along with black scribbling of names and dates of people who entered the cave earlier, many dating back to the 1920s to 1940s. Ben, who had over 15 years of caving experience, kept a level head as he expertly guided us through the cave. He frequently gave us choices of easy and hard passage ways through the cave. The hardest passage required impossibly tight squeezes, headfirst vertical drops, and 30ft crawls along the small cave stream. At one point, we all shut off all our lights and immersed ourselves in true darkness, not even able to see our hands in front of our face. After nearly 3 hours of exploring this subterranean labyrinth, we slowly ascended back to the surface and emerged to glorious daylight. Hungry, and with our clothes ransacked by the sand in the cave, we eagerly traveled back to the campsite for a late lunch.
After making sandwiches and throwing around the frisbee for a bit, we headed off to Ohiopyle with Kyle joining us. Some of us went hiking, while others visited a natural waterslide. When we first saw the dangerous looking and impressively fast flowing waterslide carved into the rock, we thought the name was surely just for show. But then we saw some small kids zipping down apparently unscathed. After observing many successful rides down, Raul impressed us all by courageously riding down the waterslide without hesitation. Max, Danny, Kyle, and GaRam jumped into the (quite) cold natural pool at the bottom of the slide and soon all went down the slide themselves. Eventually, Mike was persuaded to slide down as well. Afterwards, we all relaxed on a sunny rock embankment on the Youghiogheny River and eventually made our way back to the campsite.
Back at the campsite, we lit a campfire and made dinner. Many different hot dog on stick carving techniques were evaluated, with Max’s helical spiral most popular. After dinner, a sneaky game of capture the flag was played in complete darkness, which involved a lot of running, crawling, and yelling. Afterwards, we tried to recreate the NASA logo by long exposure light painting with Max’s DSLR. In the process, Max discovered a newfound passion for directing as six of us performed what looked like a post-modern interpretive dance and an exercise in coordination. After a lot of yelling, we finally finished an awesome NASA logo, complete with a blue outline and a red aeronautics vector. Afterwards, we created a large bonfire, shared a few more stories, and went off to bed in our tents.
The start of a rain shower woke most of us in the morning. Despite the rain, a fire was made under the cover of umbrellas where we cooked bacon and scrambled eggs. While the rain let up a bit, we quickly took down our tents and packed away our campsite. We put out the fire with several jugs of water, officially marking the end of our camping trip. We all jumped into different cars and had a sleepy three hour drive back to our hotel. A shower was immediately taken upon arrival, and then some of us rested and did laundry, while others still have the strength to go to the gym. The rest of the Academy went to bed, as GaRam and Mike started writing the weekly summaries!