Wednesday, July 19, 2017

NASA Engineer Profiles Goddard Space Flight Center - large STEM facility manages multiple lines of inquiry

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,Maryland is one of America's primary space science centres,involved in the management of  research programmes carried out by a variety of space probes,especially those in Earth orbit or perhaps as far out as the Moon or Mars-the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,California handles probes to the outer planets and beyond.Larry Mignosa,a Mechanical Engineer at Goddard for 25 years,gave a broad overview of the facility and its lines of inquiry to a small audience of STEM enthusiasts at the C.Burr Artz Library in Frederick,Maryland,which has positioned itself as a STEM education center.He was educated as a civil engineer,but that discipline comes under the mechanical engineering heading at Goddard.Mr.Mignosa has worked on repairing the Hubble Space Telescope,which Goddard manages;as well as the Broad Band X-Ray Telescope,which was a Space Shuttle astronomy mission;the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and the Global Precipitation Measuring Mission,gathering data for better climate modeling and carried out with JAXA,the Japanese Space Agency;and now ICE Sat-2,which will use lasers to measure the height of ice fields in an effort to understand the future of Earth's climate change.He said he's been making a number of visits to the ICE Sat-2 contractor in Arizona.*
In satellite design today,Mr.Mignosa pointed out,they always use materials so that it will demise on its own;otherwise,you will have to pay for extra fuel to control the re-entry.NASA launches a satellite every three to four months.The launches have a success rate of 95%.*
The repair of Hubble,which is in Earth orbit,involved five corrective mirrors and five corrective optics installed by Space Shuttle astronauts.The successor mission,the JamesWebb Space Telescope,has a mirror comprised of several cells.They can be electronically reconfigured for a correction,a capacity for self-repair.*
Mr.Mignosa likened NASA Goddard to a college campus.It employs about 10,000 people.Goddard has a lot of physics majors to study the physics of the planets;math majors;as well as mechanical,optical,aerospace and electrical engineers.A young student in the audience is interested in telescope design.*
NASA Goddard manages the MAVEN satellite that is probing the Martian atmosphere,some of the instruments on the Curiosity rover,as well as the Solar Dynamics Observatory.Sometimes they build their own satellites,but most often they contract them out.Goddard has extensive equipment to test the satellites for their ability to withstand the harshness of spaceflight,such as a centrifuge and vibration table.*
As for future missions,the James Webb Space Telescope,which Goddard is managing,is set for an October/November 2018 launch.It will be positioned in a solar orbit at point L2,a million miles from Earth to avoid the Earth and Moon's light.WFIRST will boast a field of view 100x greater than Hubble's,with access to a million galaxies;it will be launched in the 2020-2025 time frame.ATLAST will feature an 8-16 meter mirror and is considered  a flagship mission.Only a few people are studying the project now in its concept development phase.It is envisioned for a 2025-2035 launch.*

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