On November 3rd and 4th, cadets from squadrons in the National Capital Wing traveled to two of NASA’s key locations on the east coast – Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore.
The cadets first toured the visitor center at Goddard. They viewed exhibits describing many of NASA’s space missions and images of distant galaxies.
“I enjoyed seeing the pictures from the Hubble space telescope,” said Cadet 1st Lt. Nicholas Johnson.
The cadets divided into teams for a scavenger hunt involving many of the exhibits in the visitor center. This activity was as much about scientific education as it was developing collaborative skills.
“I enjoyed learning on the scavenger hunt with my team, and getting to know my friends better,” said Cadet TSgt. Alexander Johnson.
Outside the visitor center, there was much activity as local young people gathered to launch their own model rockets. These launches are open to the public on the first Saturday of every month, and the cadets were able to watch them that day.
When asked about the rocket launches, Cadet Airman Nicole Lavin said, “I thought it was interesting to see the model rockets launch and reach such heights.”
Following their visit to Goddard, the cadets traveled to Wallops Island, Va. and spent the night. The first order of business the next morning was a visit to the sounding rocket operations facility. NASA engineers were on hand to describe how the rockets and their payloads were built, tested and launched.
The cadets next visited the balloon payload facility. NASA launches balloons from sites around the world loaded with research equipment to gather data for government and university scientists. Some of the super pressure balloons reach heights above 100,000 feet and can stay aloft for more than a month.
“I thought it was cool that the balloons could carry 6000 pounds…the same as three cars,” said Cadet Airman Keilie Blood.
Cadet Airman Carol Oordt said her favorite part was the balloons, because she “did not realize that the balloons were used for weather and science studies.”
A highlight of the visit was a tour of mission control. The cadets were able to sit at the same computer consoles as NASA engineers. The large screens projected images of rocket launch pads being prepared for their next mission. A NASA engineer described the sequence of events on launch day and the roles of each member of the team.
“I really enjoyed going to Mission Control because you only see that in movies and we got to see that in person,” said Cadet 2nd Lt. Hunter Harlow.
The two-day trip allowed the cadets to see how NASA takes science and puts it into practice, and even into space. The roles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in bringing NASA’s vision to reality were quite clear. In summary, Cadet Airman Anith Muthalaly remarked, “[NASA] advanced technology makes me appreciate STEM more.”