Living the Dream: Becoming a NASA SEES High School Intern (Part 2)

Author’s Note: This is a series of three posts.

Part 2

Wednesday, July 19

Dr. Hum Mandell gave us his presentation Explore Mars on Wednesday, discussing the Space Race, history leading up to Mars exploration (specifically the geopolitical reasons as to why), and future implications regarding going to Mars. He used to be a part of the Mars/Moon Exploration Program and his inspiration transpired from von Braun, a scientist who built rockets for the Germans. I thought it was really cool how Dr. Mandell had not only watched von Braun’s rockets launch but sat right next to him during the Apollo landing because of his luck in the lottery.

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Afterwards, we got into teams to do the Heavy Lifting Activity consisting of building a rocket design that would send a payload (i.e. small cup with 50 paper clips) into the ceiling along a string (attached to the floor and ceiling).

We modified our design multiple times, but it never did quite reach the ceiling. I guarantee that if we had more time, we probably would’ve figured it out. I guess the best part about it was epically failing because it made us think about what could’ve went wrong.

I think it’s more fun that way too.

Then, we did a Red Rover activity to imitate what it’s like to work as a rover that picks up rocks. In the simulation, we were blind-folded while one other person told us directions as to where to go to pick up random rocks on the ground.

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Project work consisted of looking through more data of the Meramec River, and I ended the day with a nice game of cards with some friends.

Thursday, July 20

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Dr. Tim Urban discussed the different aspects of ICESat, a NASA satellite detecting ice changes and topography. ICESat data was validated by examining the White Sands in New Mexico. One interesting tool used on ICESat was a detector that detected if infrared or green light was sensed and turned on a LED light for which one it was.

Denis Felikson talked about the cryosphere, the frozen water part of the Earth and the process and cycle of ice. What fascinated me was that at the ice divide areas, ice is more stagnant (not at the edges of Greenland or Antarctica), so these divide areas are where scientists find ice from a long time ago.

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Then, we got a tour of the UT/CSR Library where my team and I were working for our project. The library basically had all the really old archives in it. In the past, everything used to have to be written up, printed, published, and distributed. Plus the only way to get a copy was to basically buy your own copy of it (which was very expensive). Now, all these articles are for the most part accessible online and easier to access, but it’s a nice reminisce of the past to see, and you can actually check them out too.

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After that, we listened to Dr. Brandon Bowler talk about exoplanets and the three common methods to discover them: radial velocity technique, transit technique, and direct imaging.

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For project work, my team fixed up our data with some calibration techniques using the application SNAP.

We finished the day off with dinner at Dave and Busters which brought out my inner child.

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Friday, July 21

IMG_1526.JPGOn Friday, we did more team activities. The first one was creating the tallest tower with only pipe cleaners. Along the way, we were faced with challenges such as not being able to talk to each other and only being able to use one hand.

Afterwards, we had to make a helium balloon move across the hallway in the CSR building with only two pieces of paper, tape, scissors, straws, and a balloon.

I swear it flew extremely well while we were test-running it in the conference room, but in the hallway, it flew like a sputtering engine that died with the wind.

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Then, my mentor Ms. Howard gave us a presentation about the planning, response, and recovery phrases of natural disasters. She showed us some really fascinating satellite images and explained how satellite images during disasters came directly from the CSR building’s receiving system and not from NASA for quick acquisition.

While in the library for project work, my team found some aerial data and combined images of different polarizations from SNAP into QGIS.

After eating dinner at J2, a few of my friends and I went to an outdoor concert and played cards while also taking a trip to a boba milk tea shop.

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Saturday, July 22

On Saturday, we set off to San Antonio to do the Challenger Mission at the Scobee Planetarium. It’s basically a mission simulator. Everyone got a chance to work in Mission Control and as an astronaut in space. Each of us did mixed tasks that were all necessary for a successful mission which was to launch a satellite into space.

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Then, we went on a boat ride through the San Antonio River Walk and learned about its history and the buildings surrounding it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to drop by the Alamo, but I did get a side-view glance of it.

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We ate Mexican food at a really nice restaurant called Mi Tierra. There were literally decorations all around the ceiling, and the atmosphere was friendly. Music played in the background, and they also had a bakery to buy pastries inside.

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When we got back to the UT dormitory, we ventured out to get a peek of the International Space Station which would be going over the Austin area at around 9:45 pm if my memory serves me well. Perhaps one of the coolest things I got to see. It may look like a speck, but to me, it meant so much more than that. Quality of the video is not the best, but it is there if you look closely.

Sunday, July 23

Sunday was our free day, so we basically had the opportunity to do whatever we wanted. I started off the day jogging with a friend of mine and then eating a light brunch of my leftover Chick-fil-A sandwich and chips. After that, a group of friends and I walked through some shops and went to the University Co-op.

IMG_20170723_131200014.jpgThen, we took a long walk to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum which cost $3 for entry. The library museum had amazing artifacts and a lot of history about President Johnson.

What I thought was really interesting was that most of the floors were devoted to archives that visitors could not access. Employees had to get them if you wanted them, and it’s not an easy process. They have to retrieve them, and you have to wear gloves in order to look through them.

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The most funny part of this was the section of the museum which contained Sesame Street characters. There was a huge Big Bird, and the sign said that Big Bird was planned to orbit Earth on the Challenger space shuttle until NASA realized that the puppet was too enormous to fit.IMG_20170723_134413732.jpg

I also got to see a replica of part of the White House and President Johnson and the First Lady’s work offices.

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A fellow SEES intern also brought a quadcopter that I got to see fly around in one of UT’s parks which was pretty neat.

 

Up Next: Living the Dream: Becoming a NASA SEES High School Intern (Part 3)

 

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