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January 11, 2000
QuestChat with Tom Benson

Aeronautical Engineer
NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH



Tue Jan 11 11:30:38 2000
The expert's featured URL: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/atmosi.html
The host's featured URL is: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 5 - 09:41:53 ]
Hello to our early arriving chat participants. Today's chat with Tom Benson will begin in about 20 minutes. Be sure you have read Tom's profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/team/benson.html to prepare your questions.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 6 - 09:43:09 ]
Today's chat will be MODERATED to help Tom keep up with our questions. This means we will post a few questions in the chat room at a time.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 7 - 09:44:05 ]
DON'T WORRY if you don't see your questions on your screen immediately during moderation. We will post new questions as Tom answers those ahead of you.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 8 - 09:45:13 ]
We ask that you share your thoughts with us at the conclusion of today's chat. Please visit our QuestChat Information Center at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats and use our online surveys to send your comments to us. We look forward to hearing from you!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 11 - 10:00:31 ]
Hello and welcome to today's Aerospace Team Online chat with Tom Benson from NASA Glenn Research Center.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 12 - 10:00:38 ]
For almost thirty (30) years, Tom Benson has used computers to address problems associated with fluid mechnanics. Most recently, he has been developing computer programs for students to use to increase their knowledge of math and science.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 13 - 10:00:57 ]
And now, here is Tom Benson to answer your questions.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 16 - 10:01:39 ]
RE: [Oran/NASAChatHost] And now, here is Tom Benson to answer your questions.
Thanks, Oran Let's have the first question.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 17 - 10:03:06 ]
RE: [Joseph] What is it like at NASA?
NASA is an exciting, fun place to work. There are always new and difficult problems to solve and you have to keep learning all the time. Everyday you find out something new.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 20 - 10:08:41 ]
RE: [Spring] Is science cool? How did you get interested in science?
Spring, Science is really cool. When you understand science, you understand how a lot of things around you work, and why things are the way they are. It takes some thinking, but it's a lot of fun. I was first interested in science when I was 9 - 10 years old. That was when we first started to send spacecraft around the earth. I liked science fiction stories and movies and every time we would send a real rocket up, they would show it on TV. One of the very first satellites (Echo I) could be seen in the sky with your naked eye. We used to go in the back yard and watch it fly over.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 21 - 10:11:34 ]
RE: [Chris] If something would happen to a computer in space, how would they fix it?
Chris, It would depend on what the problem was. Some problems can be fixed by just re-booting the computer (turning it off and then back on). Some programs can take different input, or be told to ignore some input. If the problem were mechanical ... it would probably be hard to fix. On the Space Shuttle, to be safe, we carry five different computers. So the chances of something going wrong with all five is pretty small.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 24 - 10:15:48 ]
RE: [Marc] What exactly is fluid mechanics? I am in 3rd grade and science is my favorite thing in school.
Marc, Fluids are like water, or air. They are different than solids (like a baseball bat :-) ) Solids hold their shape, but a fluid will take the shape of its container. So fluids behave a little different than solids. Fluid Mechanics is just a couple of big words for figuring out how fluids work. It's great that your favorite subject in school is science. Maybe you'll work for NASA some day .. and go visit Mars.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 25 - 10:18:52 ]
Rural Hall school, we're glad you could join us for today's chat with Tom Benson. We will post a few questions in the chat room every few minutes. Thanks for your patience.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 26 - 10:20:21 ]
RE: [pokemonman] are you exsited about the mars millineum project
Pokemonman .. cool handle yes, I think the Mars Millennium project is very interesting. Having young people think about Mars, and what's out there, and how you would live there ... that's a lot of fun. To help you get an idea about what the atmosphere of Mars is like, I've got a web page where you can go and try things out. It's at: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/atmosi.html Give it a try!

[ TomBenson/GRC - 29 - 10:24:23 ]
RE: [Angel/MrsMcD/RuralHall] What helped you decide to be an engineer?
Angel, I didn't originally want to be an engineer. I wanted to be an all-American football player. But I never could keep the weight on (and I wasn't really very good at it :-( ) But I was good at math. And I liked science. And I liked learning new things and reading and trying things out. I built a lot of model airplanes and flew model airplanes and model rockets. When computers came along, I thought they were a lot of fun too. As an engineer, I get paid to do things that I really like to do. It's a good job !

[ TomBenson/GRC - 31 - 10:26:50 ]
RE: [Adam/MrsMcD/RuralHall] What inspired you to work at NASA?
Adam, When I was young, people first started to go into space. I thought that was really cool and I wanted to be one of those people. (I applied to be an astronaut when I was in grad school .. but wasn't selected.) The space program really inspired me to be an engineer.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 33 - 10:32:55 ]
Again, we appreciate your patience as Tom Benson answers your questions today. A reminder to please send your comments to us at the end of today's chat, at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 34 - 10:32:57 ]
RE: [DanielleV/MrsMcD/RuralHall] Are wind tunnels different sizes? What is the largest on you have worked in?
Danielle, Excellent question !!! Wind tunnels come in many different sizes. There are small tunnels (less than 1 foot across) that I've seen in some high schools and museums. Some very high speed tunnels are hundreds of feet long and several feet around (in the test section). Here at NASA Glenn, the largest tunnel takes up about a city block, and the test section is 10 foot by 10 foot. When I was in the Air Force, we used two tunnels in Tennessee that were 16 feet by 16 feet. But the grand daddy of all tunnels is at NASA Ames, where they test whole airplanes (not just models). I think its test section is 80 feet high and 120 feet across. I've never tested there, but I've seen the tunnel ... it's impressive.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 35 - 10:37:57 ]
RE: [Shakira/MrsMcD/RuralHall] What classes in middle or high school started your interest in NASA or computer work?
Shakira, When I was in high school, I built a little mechanical computer which could play tic-tac-toe for a science fair project. There weren't any high school classes on computers in those days (back in the early '60s), in fact there weren't many computers around at all. When I went to college, big computers were first being installed at the university. Certainly Euclidian geometry (logic) has helped a lot in my career, as well as algebra and trigonometry.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 37 - 10:41:50 ]
RE: [Rilee] How old were you when you started working on computers? Are you at the NASA site in Florida?
Rilee, Check the answer to Shakira about my interest in computers. I'm not in Florida .. but I'm up in Cleveland. (I wish I were in Florida today, because it's cold and snowing outside.) NASA has research labs in Virginia, California, Ohio, Maryland, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, and Florida. (I hope I didn't miss anybody :-) )

[ TomBenson/GRC - 41 - 10:44:48 ]
RE: [HollyAnn/MrsMcD/RuralHall] Which was your favorite job?
Holly Ann, My favorite job is the one I'm doing right now ..talking with young people. NASA is all about the future .. making better airplanes, going into space, making better computers and learning new ways to look at things ... the future belongs to you young people. Anything that any of us older people can do to help you enjoy the future is job #1.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 42 - 10:48:17 ]
RE: [Ashley/MrsMcD/RuralHall] What was your hardest job? Did you ever get discouraged?
Ashley, Of course I get discouraged ... just about every day something doesn't work quite right, or I have a real hard problem to solve and I just can't quite figure out what to do. BUT ... I work hard, and if I can't figure out an answer, I ask my friends for some help and eventually, I usually get an answer to my problems. When that happens, I feel just as good as I was discouraged. It all goes together.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 43 - 10:50:56 ]
RE: [MrsMcD/RuralHall] Did the NASA prject working on a fluidic device for automatic pilot for small aircraft ever get completed or is it in use?
Mrs Mc D, I'm not sure. My work here at Glenn is mostly involved with propulsion. Sounds like a question for NASA Langley, I think they are involved in small aircraft aerodynamics and control. Sorry, Tom

[ TomBenson/GRC - 46 - 10:54:47 ]
RE: [TomBenson/GRC] Ashley, Of course I get discouraged ... just about every day something doesn't work quite right, or I have a real hard problem to solve and I just can't quite figure out what to do. BUT ... I work hard, and if I can't figure out an answer, I ask my friends for some help and eventually, I usually get an answer to my problems. When that happens, I feel just as good as I was discouraged. It all goes together.
Some additional info for Ashley, The hardest problem I ever worked on was trying to model a space shuttle experiment with gasses in a fluid. I was trying to build a computer model and was testing the model against some simple problems, like bubbles moving up through a bottle of shampoo. I just couldn't get the program to give the right answer .. and eventually had to give up. Several years later, another guy in our group was able to solve the problem.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 47 - 10:59:33 ]
RE: [Oran/NASAChatHost] Tom, while we're waiting for more questions, perhaps you could share your thoughts with us regarding space exploration, in light of the recent unsuccessful Mars missions.
Oran, The unsuccessful Mars missions are sort of related to Ashley's question about being discouraged .. and doing hard problems. If you try to do difficult things, you're aren't going to get it right every time .. sometimes things fail. But, as engineers (and as people) you have to learn from mistakes, and try again, until you get it done. And students, don't worry about making mistakes ... everybody makes mistakes. In fact, there's an old saying that, "Anyone who doesn't make mistakes doesn't make anything else." Learning is about trying, and failing, and trying again, and failing again, and trying again ... till it works.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 48 - 11:01:54 ]
RE: [TomBenson/GRC] Oran, The unsuccessful Mars missions are sort of related to Ashley's question about being discouraged .. and doing hard problems. If you try to do difficult things, you're aren't going to get it right every time .. sometimes things fail. But, as engineers (and as people) you have to learn from mistakes, and try again, until you get it done. And students, don't worry about making mistakes ... everybody makes mistakes. In fact, there's an old saying that, "Anyone who doesn't make mistakes doesn't make anything else." Learning is about trying, and failing, and trying again, and failing again, and trying again ... till it works.
Space exploration .... That's what our age is about. In the history books, years from now, this will be called the space exploration age. This is the beginning of a great adventure for humanity .. to move off the planet, eventually, and explore everything that's around us.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 55 - 11:13:54 ]
RE: [Maggie] Have you watched lauches and if so what did you think about them.
Maggie, I've watched just about every manned launch on TV. But I've never seen one in person. In the old days (60's and 70's) all the networks used to broadcast the launch of the Mercury's and Gemini's and Apollo moon rockets and the early shuttle flights. Every time there is a launch, it is broadcast here at NASA over NASA Select TV... I always take time out to watch the launch .. it's very exciting. Unfortunately, I was also watching the day that the Challenger blew up. Some day I'd like to see one live .... and one day, I'd like to be inside on the way up !!!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 49 - 11:02:39 ]
Thanks so much for your answers, Tom. This concludes today's Aerospace Team Online chat with Tom Benson from NASA Glenn Research Center. We would like to thank everyone for joining us today, and offer our very special thanks to Tom Benson for his thoughtful responses, and sharing his time and career experiences with us today. Thank you, Tom!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 50 - 11:03:08 ]
A reminder to share your thoughts about today's chat with us, at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats.

[ TomBenson/GRC - 51 - 11:04:14 ]
Thanks to you, Oran, for a being a gracious host. And especially thanks to the students who joined us and their excellent questions ... Have fun in the future! Tom

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 52 - 11:04:35 ]
We invite you to join us for our next ATO chat with Larry Young from NASA Ames Research Center, on Tuesday, January 18, at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Check the ATO chat schedule at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/chats for more information.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 53 - 11:05:15 ]
Thank you again to Tom Benson and our chatters for joining us today. Have a great day!

 
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