Sunday July 17, 2011
After a long night, the Space Academites woke up late and refreshed to a long-awaited day of relaxation at Venice Beach, California. Stopping at Danny’s for breakfast, a couple Academites enjoyed the famous fish tacos and the beach-front atmosphere. After watching the start of what appeared to be a promising soccer game for America’s women team, the gang split up and began exploring the streets of Venice Beach. Michelle and David watched as Andrew was pulled into a starring role of a street performer’s show. The gang then met up again looking for a great deal on sunglasses (with Mike N. unfortunately choosing the lesser of the two pairs he was considering) and David almost getting a T-shirt that said, “I put ketchup on my ketchup.”
With the beautiful Pacific Ocean in sight, the crew headed off to the beaches. Cameron, Michelle, and David decided to test the waves, while the rest of the Academites decided to sleep on the beach and test the sun block application. The swimmers encountered both a rather large water-surfing armadillo and some of the Aero guys in the ocean, and then they rejoined the sleeping group on the beach. A beach volleyball game ensued shortly thereafter with a large group of Aeros and three highschoolers, but little did the newcomers know of our surprising sand attack move that left all in awe. The teams soon lost their appetite for volleying and headed their own ways. Andrew awoke to the unfortunate reality that was the sunblock application skills of Mike N., discovering that he did not know how to apply the spray-on variety more than a couple strips. The motley crew met up with Andrew’s friends from SpaceX, and continued the conversations at a small family-run Mexican restaurant in northern Venice beach, whose entrance was guarded by a rambunctious beagle.
After Mike N.’s secret desire for collecting tapestries was discovered, a few Facebook-worthy pictures were taken, and with the group well-fed (although service wasn’t La Fiesta Brava’s number one priority), they all left satisfied, heading back towards the beach to catch the sunset. But to everybody’s dismay, they had just missed it, the sun hiding behind the mountains, and another attempt at beach volleyball was agreed upon as dusk quickly approached. After getting crushed in a 25-point game, Cameron, Mike J., and Mike N. won a smaller and less meaningful 7-point game bringing back their dignity, but not enough to secure the title of Volleyball Champions of California. With dusk on their heels, the Space Academites parted from their newly made SpaceX friends and headed towards the pair of Crown Vics that would safely take them to the airport. Fortunately, Mike J.’s and Molly’s bad travel karma ran out, and a tranquil red eye flight could be enjoyed as the Space Academites left California, the last big trip, and headed back to the Cleveland for the final stretch of the summer internship.
Monday July 18, 2011
The Academites landed in Cleveland around 8 a.m., just in time to change, take a shuttle, and start a new workday as fresh as daisies after their red-eye flights from California. Yawning nary a once, the wide-eyed and bushy-tailed interns headed to their respective offices, to clean out their overflowing inboxes.
As a midday break, the group toured Glenn’s Aerogel Lab. The tour left the Academites (David in particular) in awe of exothermic solutions and silicate concentrations, albeit scrambling to remember vocabulary from long-ago chemistry classes. Considering over two work days had been missed for the California trip, it was decided to stay at work an hour late all this week, starting immediately.
Back at the ol’ Studio Plus, eschewing even a power nap, the group sped through a group project meeting and then left to see the final Harry Potter movie. After a slight mix-up with two theater attendants who insisted that we wanted to see Winnie the Pooh, the team settled down for over two hours of epic battles and an awkward hug from Voldemort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Returning from the theater, Andrew decided to take the most scenic route possible home, even though his car’s occupants could see nothing in the pitch black darkness. At last we showered off yesterday’s beach and travel grime before collapsing into our own soft beds.
Tuesday July 19, 2011
After a regular breakfast at the GRC cafeteria, the Space Academites minus Logan, who was chilling in Houston — or should I say cooking in Houston — headed to work, where work ensued. Those lucky few members of the Academy now fittingly extra tan from the recent California trip worked on the HBCU conference posters, due the following day at noon. The fatigued Academites attended the Fatigue and Structures Lab tour scheduled for that morning and afterwards a SLOPE facility tour, where Cameron got to play with sand most of his work day. Following the giant sand box tour, the hungry academites sped off to lunch, where Andrew was struggling with his wrap in which there were large clumps of horseradish. After diligently working until 5:30, the Space Academites all agreed to a RAP session back at StudioPlus, which sadly was the first RAP session without Logan. A PHAME group project meeting was shortly initialized, after which the group decided to call it a night and fall asleep in their beloved beds.
Wednesday July 20, 2011
Breakfast was awoken from its usual sleepy peace when Mike N. discovered and started raving about a bottle of orange juice from a particularly good day. His enthusiastic review of its fruity aroma and crisp mouthfeel created a scramble to try the exclusive November 14 label as well.
Everyone was ready for next week’s symposium finishing their presentation posters by noon. After lunch the Academites toured Glenn’s giant hangar to learn about the research planes that Glenn operates and maintains. Mike J’s car made a very slight detour upon leaving work because he was nervous about the borrowed recovery equipment from David Snyder. He exited through the West Gate with hopes that the guards would not question the six, comfortably seated passengers about a bright yellow science pole hanging out the window.
The upcoming presentation and weekend practice launch meant PHAME was the name of the game tonight. Some even went on a quest to hunt the mythical Wi-Fi connection on the grounds of the Studio Plus.
Thursday July 21, 2011
Excited for the day’s upcoming events, the Space Academites woke up early to get ready for the day ahead. Following a great start with GRC’s quality breakfast, and Mike J.’s car yet again almost beating the Solara crew, the Academites headed to their offices attempting to get some work done before the long-awaited Plumbrook tour. Finally the time came, but unfortunately the ride to Plumbrook was not very long, since the school bus did not even make it past the front gate and had already broken down, thus not allowing the team to see the facility that day. A long work day followed the almost Plumbrook tour, with most of the Academites eating lunch at their desks. David unfortunately forgot his lunch in Michael B.’s backpack and would have gone hungry for the day if not for Andrew and Michelle’s heroic efforts to bring his tasty lunch. David would like to take this moment to personally thank Andrew, Michelle, Michael B., and all others involved in the coordinated effort of securing his lunch. Nutella sandwich never tasted so good. The rest of the workday carried on eventless and the Academites left GRC for the StudioPlus, where a Lowe’s shopping run for the quickly approaching small-scale launch that weekend was planned and executed. Thursday pool volleyball was played while David took his usual afternoon nap, and then a PHAME meeting for the logistics of the upcoming weekend’s launch shortly ensued. The Space Academites then turned in for the night; attempting to get a few REM cycles in before it would be time to start the day all over again.
Friday July 22, 2011
Unfortunately stress from the team project and the notable absence of the legendary Logan Larson and his pointing prowess were starting to takes its toll on the team dynamic. The team ventured to pick up the helium tank for the practice launch over the weekend. The west siders, staying at their desks for lunch, managed to use the time wisely, pouring over alarming new density values that greatly impacted their intended parachute deployment for the big launch, not to mention their presentation in twenty minutes. The team convened to present their project in a branch meeting, from which they hoped to receive judicious scientific feedback.
After three o’clock, the interns started working their way toward Building 45, their lab space for the group project. The space seemed small yet well-suited for their needs at first but it soon became clear that it was the set for many a horror movie. Thunder crashed loudly overhead as we crept down the dimly lit hallway lined with industrial pipes and slick with rain dripping through the ceiling. To fit the mood of the scene, Michelle tried her best velociraptor impression. But it was Cameron who ultimately prevailed in scaring Michelle by jumping out of the corner of an unlit maintenance room.
After finding an amazing radio station (the only one they were apparently allowed to listen to) whose DJ had excellent taste in classic rock, the Academites all got down to work. Mike N. carved the test payload into a Cyclopic masterpiece, Cameron machined and soldered release mechanism parts, Molly rummaged for tools in the few drawers left unlocked, Michelle sketched mechanical parachute deployment designs, Mike J. hunched over a circuit board and Michael B. dabbled once he returned from getting his newly functional car.
Eventually the team received an unexpected phone call regarding an absent member. David had stayed behind in his office to do other work and then forgot about the group project entirely. To his great confusion, no one came to pick him up at the end of the work day. Lost and bewildered, he yipped out for Andrew who called the team in exasperation. David was finally reunited with the team, just in time to eat the pizza they had ordered for dinner.
Once they had completed the majority of the work necessary for Saturday’s practice launch, the team finally left Glenn. They were all particularly excited for tonight marked the return of Logan from the exotic climes of Michigan and Houston. The evening’s activities ranged mostly involved sleeping in preparation for the weekend air show and launch ahead.
Saturday July 23, 2011
It was a slow start for everyone today. Luckily Molly and her checklist kept everyone in line and on task to pack the gear necessary for launch on Sunday. David surprised everyone by being fully conscious and ready to leave in the first car out but the unexpectedness of the situation meant he was the one traded to the second car. Both cars drove to Dayton for the huge air show going on this weekend. However, the second car did not know how to get there and instead of calling the other car for directions, decided to exchange their vehicle for a helicopter.
Eventually everyone managed to meet at the air show to witness five hours of amazing aerobatics. First was Melissa Pemberton, who had become fearless after being struck by lightning and had since dedicated herself to performing stunts on the wings of a biplane. Tora, Tora, Tora was next up, despite Michelle’s insistence that she had seen them aloft as they entered the show grounds and that they must have missed that particular show. Eight replicas of Japanese fighter and bomber aircraft whizzed around the field in bombing runs as timed charges detonated beneath them, sending blasts of hot air over the crowds already overheating in the sun.
A USAF B-2 stealth bomber performed a rare pass, followed by the B-1B which made several passes in different wing configurations. These reserved but classy performances were upstaged by the flashy aerobatics of one Sean D. Tucker. A mad man in a red biplane, he pulled stunts no other pilot would dare think about. He looped tight loops, flew straight up, flew straight down tail first, hovered, rotated sideways over and over again, pulled out of low nose dives, forcing the mesmerized crowd below to keep their heads on a constant swivel to follow each unbelievable movement. His finale included severing three ribbons held 18 feet above the ground with each wing tip and then upside down with the vertical stabilizer.
Fatigue set in as necks were craning skyward for over an hour. Shade was sought by touring the NASA “Journey to Tomorrow” trailer with interactive displays and the Super Guppy transport plane. Resembling an enormous silver Beluga whale, the Super Guppy’s nose can hinge open to allow up to 26 tons of cargo to be loaded and unloaded with ease. Its cargo bay measures 25 feet in diameter and 111 feet long and has been used to transport modules for the International Space Station.
The group then explored the huge rows of booths of airplane models, t-shirts and military gear, simultaneously keeping one eye on the sky to watch a helicopter that performed backward loops and an F/A-18 making a supersonic pass. One man practically danced with glee after he snapped a photo of his young son in front of an F-18 on display just as another F-18 flew past in the background.
The final performance of the day was a squadron of six USAF Thunderbirds in F-16s flying with musical accompaniment. Four generally flew in tight formation, turning as one entity with apparent ease. The other two performed close quarter stunts, including flying directly at each other and then at the last second each rotating to one side to narrowly glide past the other. Their well-choreographed movements elicited “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowds. They would make a pass and then quickly disappear into the clouds at the edge of the field. But in no time at all, they were heading in from another direction for the next act. Probably the coolest part was when all six together flew slowly straight up and suddenly burst in all directions, set to Katy Perry’s “Firework” song.
After nearly collapsing with dehydration and heat stroke while waiting for a bus to the parking lot, the group headed to a nearby Sonic for über- refreshing beverages. Next a Walmart run commenced to procure food and other necessities (namely rope) for camping that evening. Logan’s car also went in search of a real tent at Dick’s. Michael B’s car used the opportunity to sneak ahead to the campsite, check-in and select the best spot for tents and tree-climbing shenanigans. One epic ambush and ensuing water gun battle later, Logan’s car finally rolled in, too late for the fun.
After some confusion over fire-starting materials and their locations, a fire was then lit. Then killed. And then started again and lasted just long enough to cook two rounds of hot dogs and one round of marshmallows. Seated around two picnic tables in the dim light of a headlamp, everyone seemed very low-key. In fact, everyone turned in surprisingly early, in preparation of the early start tomorrow for the practice launch. Much less surprisingly, it rained like crazy and deluged the dim-witted occupants of the big smelly tent.