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NASA Microgravity University

2010 Blog:

Microgravity Flight Week Day 3

April 14th, 2010

This morning at 7:00am, we went to Hangar 990 and prepared our experiment for the Test Readiness Results (TRR). This test is crucial and will determine if we will be able to fly or not. After figuring out what went wrong with the cryocooler, we presented the project to the engineers and several microgravity official who then critique us on what needs to be explained or fixed. After this was done, I went with three other to the flyers chamber flight test at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at 12:45pm. When we arrived at the laboratory, we checked in as a visitor at the front desk and went to the meeting room. After waiting for several minutes two NASA lecturer helped us with checking out the breathing device and head gears that will be used later in the simulation flight test. The gears used had three key pieces, first a head cover with two large ear phone are fitted to us, second a device called a bayonet is fitted to our mouth and nose (this will allow us to breath in 100% oxygen during the simulation test), and third a device called a CRU is used to allow oxygen to traveled from the oxygen supply to the bayonet.

After the equipments are checked out and fitted on us, we listened to one of the official talked about the oxygen equipments and the safety when using these equipments. Once completed, we took a break and several people went to see the doctor to make sure they would be allowed to complete the simulation test (I unfortunately was one of those people). When the doctor was done visiting us about our health problems, we went back to the meeting room and from there walked to the flight simulation chamber.

Once everyone was inside the chamber, we all listened to the instruction on how to connect the oxygen equipment with the regulators and oxygen supply. When done, we had a pretest on what it felt like to breath at a very high altitude using the back-up regulator in case the primary regulator fails. This pretest was quite interesting and I found that it was indeed very hard to breath and speak at 45,000 ft, because of all the pressure pushing against my mouth and nose.

Having completed the pretest, we waited until the actual simulation begins. Around the chamber there were several other NASA people who monitored the test. Inside the chamber, three other NASA program coordinator monitor us in case of something severe were to happen during the test. Four cameras were used to monitor our reaction during hypoxia along with an outside camera video taping our every movement and reaction. When the simulation started, we first climbed slowly to several thousand altitude, once we hit past 10,000 ft my ears started to pop a lot more than usual. At the highest altitude of 15,000 ft, the odd numbered seat were to take off there oxygen mask and turn off there oxygen supply. Once done, everyone that took the mask off had to do a little quiz to see if they have any reaction toward hypoxia. When the odd seats are done, the even numbered seat turn was up next. Once the head set was off I started to complete my quiz, but after 4 minutes I experienced several sign of hypoxia because of the lack of oxygen. Some of the symptoms that I felt include my hands were a little cold and shaking , I had a slower reaction time, and couldn’t remember much of what I did at that high of an altitude.

When the simulation was completed, everyone put on their mask and turned on their oxygen so that the chamber will be pressured down to normal condition for us. When we went down, several people had problem with their ear and the coordinator and operator handled those very professionally.

Finally, after we got out of the simulation test, we got an interesting tour of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. When the tour was over, we went back to the hotel and waited to go to dinner.

Microgravity Flight Week Day 2

April 13th, 2010

Today, we got up really early at 6:15am to make our way down to Johnson Space Center. At about 7:00am, the Flyers went to the Physiological training lecture and ground crew went to Ellington Field to continue setting up the experiment. During the Physiological training several lecturer who have experience the zero gravity flight lectured on what to expect during the Microgravity flight, how our body reacts to the weightlessness, spatial orientation, hypoxia, hyperventilation, and various safety rules that we should do on the chamber test and on the actual flight day.

When the lecture was done, we met up with the ground crew and went out to lunch with Ben Longmier. After lunch, we met back to Ad Astra Rocket Company and got an inside tour of the entire facility. Ben showed us where the cryocooler that we are testing will be located on the actual VASIMR rockets and also showed us the very large pressure chamber that they do their test in. Other cool things he showed us was various equipments that they used to power the pressure chamber and to monitor electrical and mechanical devices.

After completing the tour, Ben gave us the Data Acquisition Electronic box and the National Instrument DAQ back to bring to Ellington Field to finish our experiment test. While at Ellington Field, we had a slight problem with the pressure of the cryocooler not dropping lower when the vacuum pump is on. This problem cost us some valuable test time and because the hangar closes at 4:00pm we decided to wait until Monday to finish up the test with Ben.

When we got back to the hotel, we took a break and later went to eat dinner. After dinner we went to one of the room and checked out the backup battery that was shipped to us overnight from Lincoln. We tested the backup battery and made sure everything is working properly before Monday. This will allow us to use it on Monday when Ben is with us finishing up the equipment testing.

Microgravity Flight Week Day 1

April 10th, 2010

After a long 15 hour drive from Lincoln, we finally made it to Houston, Texas. The team was exhausted and we checked into the Hotel at 1:00pm.

The next morning we all met down at the hotel lobby and had breakfast at 7:15am. After breakfast, we immediately went to the vans and drove down to Ellington Field. When we got there, we waited outside of the gate with other Microgravity team from different University. The weather during our waiting period was windy and cool, but we were too excited to even think about the chilly weather.

At 8:00am, the guard came out and open the gate to let us in Hangar 990. When we got inside the Hangar, registration and attendance were done. Everyone received a badge, program book, and schedule. After the registration was over, the entire Microgravity Education staff presented us with a short orientation about safety rules and what to expect in the upcoming days in Houston.

When the orientation was over, our Team Leader, Kevin Watts, and Mentor, Ben Longmier, went to their own briefing session. During this time, the rest of the team went to unload our experimental device from one of the van. When Kevin and Ben were done with their briefing, we began to fix the experimental box and assemble the Cryocooler. For the rest of the day, we finished the assembly of the box, Cryocooler, and even tested whether the experiment is working properly. At 3:00pm, there was a quick Q & A session and this was the culmination of our first day at Ellington Field.

At 4:00pm, we got back to the hotel and took a break. Then at about 5:30pm we met outside of the Hotel and walked to our special dinner with the other Microgravity team along with the Microgravity Education staff. When dinner was over we went back to the hotel and rest. That is the end of our first day in Houston.

Sensor system

March 24th, 2010

Right now our project mentor is working on integrating various sensors into LabVIEW with our DAQ.  He expects to be done within a few days, which would mean we essentially have a functional system.

Important Dates

Flight Week: May 30 - June 7, 2014

2014 Contacts


Team Red Moon Leader:
Kevin Watts

Faculty Advisors:
Zhaoyan Zhang
Carl Nelson

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