NASA’s chief scientist Ellen Stofan visited NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, California, July 23, touring various research projects and facilities and talking with center personnel to learn how the research conducted at the center benefits broader agency goals.
NASA Armstrong center director David McBride pointed out some key project activities and how the center is leading new discoveries in aeronautical sciences. Jacob Schaefer of the Controls and Dynamics Branch of the center’s Engineering Directorate briefed her on X-56 Multi-Utility Technology Testbed program. He explained how active control can be used to suppress flutter and reduce the gust loads placed on wings and will lead to advancements in lighter-weight wing structures, thus driving down aircraft weight and fuel burn.
During her tour of the center, Stofan learned about the capabilities of the autonomously operated Global Hawk aircraft and the upcoming deployment to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in support of the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission. NASA Armstrong Global Hawk project manager Chris Naftel highlighted how the suite of scientific instruments aboard the aircraft can gather data that will enable scientists to better predict how hurricanes intensify, leading to better hurricane warning systems.
One of the highlights of her visit was the opportunity to spend some time with NASA interns and a group of middle-school girls who were at the center for a Tech Trek tour sponsored by the American Association of University Women.
“The young people represent the future of the agency and the nation as a whole from a scientific discovery perspective,” Stofan noted afterward. “It is critical that we prepare them for challenging careers as they will be the ones taking the next giant leap and helping us land humans on Mars and unraveling the origins of the universe.”
Stofan wrapped up her visit by talking to center staff at a Town Hall meeting. She highlighted some of the broader questions NASA research is trying to answer about space and the universe. Stofan also emphasized the important role the center plays in helping to facilitate scientific studies to help explain how climate change is impacting Earth. In closing, she stressed the importance of communicating to the public the results of NASA scientific investigations and the many great discoveries the agency makes.