Tech

September 12, 2012

Researchers dedicate Zero-G parabolic flight to Neil Armstrong’s memory

Boston University students Joshua Koerpel and Christopher Hoffman test a solar array deployment system for use on CubeSats as they float in very low gravity during a parabolic flight in Zero-G Corporation’s modified Boeing 727 jetliner.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program researchers have dedicated a microgravity flight test in memory of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, who died Aug. 25 at the age of 82.

A modified Boeing 727 jetliner operated by Zero-G Corporation performed multiple aerobatic maneuvers, called parabolas, that simulate the reduced gravity found in lunar and Martian atmospheres as well as zero gravity encountered in space.

Researchers use these parabolic flights to test their technologies and science experiments to obtain preliminary data on how the experiments react in the various atmospheres before they are launched to the International Space Station or deep space.

“I was on the ground for the first flight Aug. 25 and learned of Armstrong’s death while the aircraft was airborne,” said Christopher Baker of the Flight Opportunities Program Office at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. “Midway through the second flight it was suggested that we make the final parabola of the campaign a lunar gravity parabola in tribute to Neil. It seemed like a fitting gesture and our onboard experimenters agreed.”

“I recall ‘sharing’ the experience of the lunar landing with Neil Armstrong as it happened via the broken audio and grainy video from the surface of the moon,” recalled John “Jack” Connolly of ASRC Research and Technology Solutions at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Northern California. “Some years later, I had the opportunity to meet Armstrong in person and share a brief personal conversation.

“Then just this last week, I was able to honor his moon mission by sharing the experience of a few moments of lunar gravity with a group of dedicated NASA personnel and space researchers,” he added. “My thanks to Neil, if I may be so personal, for sharing his accomplishments with us all.”

The Apollo program used parabolic flights to test and evaluate equipment and procedures in simulated lunar gravity, which is one-sixth that of Earth. Proving these early technologies here on Earth expands the ability to test and retest if needed before a new technology is launched into space.

Neil Armstrong used these type of flights to tests some of the technologies that went into the development of the Lunar Lander that brought him and fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin to the Moon.

“I have often thought what it must have been like to walk on the moon every time we do lunar-G flights,” said Dominic Del Rosso of the Reduced Gravity Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Texas. “The feeling is a little surreal, and having performed those G levels in various spacesuits over the years, I figure I have gotten as close as anyone really can.”

Del Rosso said he had met Neil Armstrong twice and had never forgotten those experiences. He first met him as a recent college graduate at an engineering day at Johnson Space Center in the early 1990′s. His next encounter was on Feb. 12 this year at the Next Generation Suborbital Conference in Palo Alto, Calif., where Del Rosso was both a speaker and panelist. Neil Armstrong had delivered the keynote speech at the conference.

“I joked at the time that after riding in the elevator with him and his wife, that I finally got to fly backseat with Neil Armstrong since he pressed the elevator buttons,” said Del Rosso.

He added that this last flight for Armstrong was the saddest that he had ever flown, noting that Armstrong was a truly humble man who was not cocky or arrogant. Del Rosso said Armstrong was always approachable, even to a fresh-out-of-college student, despite Armstrong being an American hero.

One of the experiments flown during the parabolic flight that was dedicated to Armstrong tested five different technologies developed by the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) that are slated to fly into orbit on ChargerSat-1, a CubeSat, according to UAH student researcher Eric Becnel.

“This experiment was a chance to demonstrate the functionality of these technologies and measure some key sensors to better understand these technologies while being in an environment as close to the free space environment as possible,” said Becnel. “We got to deploy our experiment, measure the effects of (of reduced gravity on it), and see the hardware in action. This test was a great chance to see that the work we have done as students is really coming together as we planned and is getting close to flying in space.”

The flights are funded by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which seeks to provide low-cost access to suborbital space environment, where researchers can expose technologies to brief periods of weightlessness in a reduced gravity environment using commercial space rockets, aircraft and high-altitude balloons.

NASA is encouraging the growth of this emerging suborbital space industry through frequent flights at the edge of space and beyond to advance technologies that benefit space exploration.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines September 17, 2014

News: Pentagon open to U.S. ground troops in fight against Islamic State - The Pentagon’s top general opened the door Sept. 16 to the possibility that U.S. combat troops would be needed in Iraq, as he publicly laid out President Obama’s still-developing plans to combat Islamic State insurgents through U.S. air power and relying on an...
 
 

News Briefs September 17, 2014

U.S. to assign 3,000 troops to fight Ebola The Obama administration is preparing to assign 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to combat the Ebola outbreak that has overwhelmed local health care systems and drawn appeals for help from the region and aid organizations. The troops will supply medical and logistical support and boost...
 
 
Navy photograph

Future USNS Fall River delivered

Navy photograph The joint high speed vessel USNS Fall River (JHSV 4) completes acceptance trials testing and evaluations in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship’s trials included dockside testing to clear the ship for sea and at-...
 

 
University of Alaska-Fairbanks photograph by Chris Larsen

NASA airborne campaigns focus on climate impacts in Arctic

University of Alaska-Fairbanks photograph by Chris Larsen Changes in more than 130 Alaskan glaciers are being surveyed by scientists at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in a DHC-3 Otter as part of NASA’s multi-year Oper...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Michael J. Pausic

Future of NATO: Adapting to a new security environment

Air Force photograph by Michael J. Pausic Gen. Phillip Breedlove informs the assembled crowd about the results of the recent NATO Summit and the areas of instability that affect Europe that have regional implications. Seated in...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory finds planet that makes star act deceptively old

Image courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss A new study from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that a giant exoplanet, WASP-18b, is making the star that it orbits very closely act much older than it actually is. This artist&...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>