Wednesday, January 2, 2013

NASA Goddard


Another year, another NASA center!  I have long wanted to see the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland... home of Heliophysics, the Hubble Space Telescope, Explorer Program, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and many other amazing NASA projects.

Heather at NASA Goddard

One of the 10 major NASA field centers, GSFC is named for Dr. Robert Goddard (1882–1945), father of modern rocket propulsion in America. Luckily, I was able to make a quick visit while in town working the social media thang at NASA HQ.

This incredible think tank and design/manufacturing center is the largest combined organization of scientists and engineers (over 10,000!) dedicated to increasing knowledge of the Earth, her Solar System, and our entire known Universe, using observations from space.

Plus, it is home to one of the largest centrifuges in the world. Here it is. Well, part of it. It's too darned huge to fit in one shot. So cool.

Centrifuge at Goddard

It is no exaggeration to say that most of what you know, and certainly all the pictures you've seen, of the celestial objects in the known currently-photographable cosmos are due to NASA Goddard!

In fact, the brains at the Goddard center are also largely responsible for everything you know about climate change, arctic ice, storm systems, solar eruptions, coronal mass ejections, interstellar clouds, geodesy, ocean ecology... and for crying out loud, they even accidentally found dinosaur footprints on their campus.
Ed Rezac

One huge highlight was meeting up with my buddy Ed, who showed me all kinds of fun robots in the Satellite Servicing Capabilities Office (SSCO). Details will follow, as his team is definitely worth their own blog post.

I also finally got to see, up close and personal, the James Webb Space Telescope, in all mirroresque glory, and surrounded by exciting optical components! The JWST is now being assembled in the same clean room where Hubble was assembled. A truly historic spot.  Other clean rooms housed the Global Precipitation Measurement Satellite (very big) and the Magnetospheric Multiscale Satellites (even bigger).

Heather with James Webb Space Telescope

Like Hubble, you cannot fathom the sheer size of that sucker until you're staring right at it! Around every corner is something even more exciting, and my only failure in visiting this amazing NASA center was not spending enough time.  Wish I'd had an opportunity to visit the LRO and SDO teams, but I'll have to catch them on the next round.

To see the entire picture gallery, click on any of the photographs above, or click here to visit the Pillownaut Picasa album collection.