Friday, July 22, 2011

Physiology, Real Astronauts, and the Space Cowboys

By John DeLooper
Today we gathered at 7:20 a.m. to go over to the NASA facility. Amost everyone was on time. When we got to the field there was a change in plans and we had to move to another facility -- they were planning a special event that I'll describe later. We got our badges and then we were welcomed to the facility by Cynthia McArthur.  Because half the plane is DOE experiments, Andrew also got to welcome the group.
We then had a two hour briefing on physiology. Everything you wanted to know about hypoxia, hyperventilation, protective breathing equipment (see the picture of Nick Guilbert below, one of my Space Cowboys teammates), trapped gases (you don't want to know how many cavities the human body has....) and finally, disorientation and motion sickness (the instructor has a few volunteers demonstrate how easy it is to fool the mind.)

Our next briefing was on safety. Their culture here is very similar to PPPL - lots of rules and procedures - and fully enforced. If you violate the rules, you basically have a two strike window - get the second  strike and you do not fly your experiment. After filling out some more forms, we got to go to lunch. After lunch we were in the hangar where we will put our experiments together (the hangar is shown in the picture below). More instructions and oh, by the way, instead of having about 3 hours to put your experiment together they cut it down to two hours.

Seems like NASA is going to welcome back the astronauts from the last shuttle flight - right where we are building our experiments....! So we finished at 2:30 p.m. and we had to leave the property and get in line to come back into the hangar. Only problem - we had to stand in the sun for an hour. 

Once we were back in - more waiting and then the event. This was a ceremony to welcome back the last four astronauts that flew a shuttle. Senator Hutchinson, the mayor of Houston, and many other dignitaries attended (picture below has the Senator speaking). The astronauts expressed their thanks to the NASA folks in the audience. This, after all, is where they trained over the previous nine months to get ready for their adventure. This was a big crowd and had lots of press coverage. There were at least six satellite T.V. trucks. 
After the event, we had dinner with most of the other teams and conversation...
And just a little bragging about our team, the Space Cowboys: We were the first to put our experiment in the glove box!

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