Thirty-two undergraduate and graduate students are participating in a NASA Airborne Science Program field experience at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., this week designed to immerse them in the agency’s Earth science research.
The students represent 30 different colleges and universities from across the United States. They were selected based on outstanding academic performance, future career plans and interest in the Earth System sciences.
NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program, now in its fourth year, provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students majoring in the sciences, mathematics and engineering to participate in all aspects of a NASA Airborne Science research campaign. Flying on NASA’s P-3B Orion airborne laboratory, students are measuring airborne pollution in the Los Angeles basin and in California’s Central Valley, water use in agricultural crops in the San Joaquin Valley, and ocean biology along the California coast. In addition to airborne data collection, students are taking measurements at field sites.
SARP participants are given a rare behind-the-scenes look at instrument installation, flight planning and payload testing that is the basis of every successful NASA Earth science airborne campaign. These campaigns play a pivotal role in the calibration and validation of NASA’s space-borne Earth observations, remote sensing measurements and high-resolution imagery for Earth system science.
The eight-week 2012 SARP began June 18 at NASA Dryden’s Palmdale facility with lectures by university faculty members, NASA scientists and program managers. To facilitate the California-based SARP flights, the NASA P-3B Orion flew from its home base at the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., to the Palmdale facility adjacent to U.S. Air Force Plant 42. The students are collecting data during six flights of the P-3B over southern and central California during the week of June 25. They are acquiring imagery of kelp beds in the Santa Barbara Channel and vineyards near Delano, Calif. In addition, the several missions will overfly dairies in the San Joaquin Valley and parts of the Los Angeles basin at altitudes as low as 1,000 feet to collect air samples and monitor air quality.
The final six weeks of the program will take place at the University of California, Irvine, where students will analyze and interpret the data they collected aboard the aircraft and deliver a final presentation on their results and conclusions.
The Student Airborne Research Program is one of NASA’s tools for training future scientists for Earth Science missions that support environmental studies and the testing and development of new instruments and future satellite mission concepts. The program’s goal is to stimulate interest in NASA’s Earth Science research and aid in the recruitment of the next generation of scientists and engineers.
NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility is the Dryden Flight Research Center’s base of operations for its airborne science aircraft. SARP is managed through the National Suborbital Education and Research Center at the University of North Dakota, with funding and support from NASA’s Airborne Science Program.