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April 24, 2001

Questchat with Corolyn Mercer

NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio

 [ Susan/NASAChatHost - 2 - 09:00:14 ]
Good morning from Moffett Field, California where it is a beautiful spring day. Thank you for joining our Aerospace Team Online Chat with Carolyn Mercer. The chat will begin at 10 AM Pacific that's 1 PM Eastern.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 3 - 09:01:34 ]
Please read Carolyn's bio prior to the chat. It is at http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/mercer.html During the chat be sure to read the other kids questions to see if they ask a question you were planning to ask.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 4 - 09:02:35 ]
Read Carolyn's answers to see if you get a new idea for a question. At the end of the chat please give us feedback on how you think it went!

[ Simon - 5 - 09:49:47 ]
hello???

[ tintin - 6 - 09:53:21 ]
I'm from belgium

[ tintin - 7 - 09:56:24 ]
hello

[ Kristin - 8 - 09:59:34 ]
I;m 11 years old .

[ Kristin - 9 - 09:59:34 ]
does any one want to chat

[ Kristin - 10 - 09:59:34 ]
I'm in 5th grade. I would like to talk to some one please

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 11 - 10:01:36 ]
Good morning everyone Carolyn is here and ready for your questions.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 12 - 10:01:51 ]
Hi, I'm Carolyn and I work at NASA as an optical engineer.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 15 - 10:02:33 ]
What are the new break throughs in optical engineering Carolyn?

[ Felicia - 17 - 10:02:53 ]
Hi, what is your salary for aerospace engineering?

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 18 - 10:03:18 ]
There are many. We're using optics to measure things that we could never measure before, like the air flow through high speed jet engines.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 19 - 10:04:22 ]
RE: [Felicia] Hi, what is your salary for aerospace engineering?
Salaries range from probably $50,000 for recent graduates to $150,000 for senior engineers. If you own your own company, you can make a lot more.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 26 - 10:07:22 ]
I became interested in optics when I first saw a hologram. I still think that holograms are one of the most interesting examples of physics. Have any of you seen good holograms?

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 31 - 10:09:08 ]
RE: [Susan/NASAChatHost] Are you using lasers to measure air speed?
Yes, we use lasers to measure air speed. Rather than stick a probe into a flow, we just shine a light in. The measurement is much more accurate.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 35 - 10:12:13 ]
RE: [Linda] Do you make holograms?
I have made holograms. They're a lot of fun. We found a good use for them too: we use them to measure damage in objects, for instance parts from the International Space Station.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 37 - 10:13:11 ]
RE: [Jason] Do the lasers measure the air speed?
The lasers measure either the speed of the molecules in the air, or we add particles and the lasers measure the speed of the particles.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 41 - 10:17:02 ]
RE: [Linda] I can't picture a holgram that shows damage to the space station can you explain that.
In this case we're looking at a plate used to cool instruments on the Space Station. We vibrate the plate, and record it's motion holographically. The recorded image looks one way if the plate is good, and another way if there's damage. Technically, it's an interferogram that we're recording and we're looking for differences from the normal.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 43 - 10:18:24 ]
RE: [Melissa] Did you ever meet and astronaut or want to be one?
I have met astronauts and astronaut candidates, and I've thought it would be fun to try but I was never serious about it. Training is a lot of work!

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 44 - 10:20:01 ]
RE: [Jason] Do you have military uses for lasers?
There are many military uses for lasers, including missile interception and measurement technology. At NASA I am not working on any military uses, except for the dual use of aircraft engine measurements where both civilian and military aircraft have needs.

[ Linda - 45 - 10:20:21 ]
That's coool!!!

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 47 - 10:20:54 ]
RE: [Carey] What i;s like to work at NASA? Do you wear a rocket scientist coat?
Working at NASA is great. I've worn lab coats occasionally, but jeans and shirts are fine. These days I'm a manager so suits are more appropriate.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 50 - 10:23:10 ]
RE: [Melissa] Do you get to fly on the airpanes you work on?
I haven't flown on any of the projects that I've worked on, but my colleagues have. One researcher flew many times on an OV-10D military aircraft to test her temperature sensor.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 52 - 10:24:27 ]
RE: [Jason] What kind of engine would be good for a mars plane?
Myself, I think an Estes rocket would be best. I prefer the concept of flying many small "airplanes," like an army of toys, to study the geology of canyons and crevices on Mars.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 54 - 10:25:05 ]
RE: [Susan/NASAChatHost] Great questions!
Yeah! Thanks for these questions!

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 56 - 10:25:57 ]
RE: [Carey] Is everybody a genus there?
Many people who work for NASA are geniuses. One of the best part about working here is getting to have great lunchtime and worktime conversations.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 57 - 10:27:13 ]
RE: [Andrea] Are engines good for the air?
Engines are not "good" for the air, but they sure are good for getting us from place to place. In aeronautics, two of NASA's biggest goals are to reduce pollutants and noise from aircraft engines. Today, engines are MUCH quieter and cleaner than they used to be.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 60 - 10:28:05 ]
RE: [Nick] Did you get to work on the mars plane engine?
No, I'm sorry to say I didn't. The project got canceled too. But some of us still want to build it.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 63 - 10:28:18 ]
RE: [Jeff] HELLO!
Hi Jeff!

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 64 - 10:30:16 ]
RE: [Karin] Did you ever want to go into space? What is the fastest airplane?
Sure, I'd love to go into space, but I never seriously pursued it. The fastest airplane (besides the Space Shuttle) is... gee, I don't know. Maybe the SR-71? Commercially it's the Concorde.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 67 - 10:34:26 ]
RE: [jason] do yoyu work on rockets?
I work on measurement systems for rockets and aircraft engines. We're working on new ideas to combine aircraft engines with rockets so we can get to space cheaper. One idea is to use a multi-cycle engine. Start off like a jet, then switch to ram-jet, scram-jet or rocket propulsion. From my perspective its pretty much the same though. Every designer needs to know surface temperature, surface strain, gas temperature, gas velocity and chemical species concentration.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 68 - 10:37:13 ]
RE: [Andrea] How can you make less pollution?
We can make less pollution by changing the way we burn our fuel. For combustion, you burn fuel in air. One concept is to start out burning a lot of fuel relative to the amount of air ("rich burning") and then quickly cutting back on the fuel ("lean quench"). Another way is to make sure that the burning is uniform inside the combustor - don't let any "hot spots" exist to create excess pollutants.

[ Andrea - 72 - 10:39:36 ]
It is good that you are trying tomake lees pollution!

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 73 - 10:40:27 ]
RE: [Melissa] Are there other girls where you work?
There are lots of other women where I work. My boss is a woman, and many research scientists, technicians, secretaries, and managers are women.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 74 - 10:41:44 ]
RE: [jason] would you like to design an engine?
I am much more interested in designing new optical systems than designing engines. Many people here at NASA Glenn are actively desiging new engines, such as a plasma engine to power deep space missions.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 77 - 10:43:40 ]
RE: [Linda] When you use lasers do you try to do certain things or just learn more about lasers?
We constantly need to learn more about the kinds of lasers that are available to us, but we mostly concentrate on inventing new ways to make measurements that engine designers need. Laser diodes are relatively new, and they've changed the way we do business by letting us design smaller and cheaper systems.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 80 - 10:46:31 ]
RE: [nick] if some people are working on engines aned some on wings how does the whole plane get designed?
An airplane designer generally specifies how much thrust they want and an engine designer will say if that's possible. Boeing makes airplanes and lets the airlines pick which engine they want to buy (Pratt & Whitney and General Electric make most of the engines.) The trickiest interface is the inlet, and usually the aircraft designer works with the engine designer for that. For space transportation systems, the engine is an integral part of the design and many people have to work together to get it all figured out.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 81 - 10:47:30 ]
This is a great chat but we only have fifteen minutes left. Send in your last questions so Carolyn will have time to answer them.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 82 - 10:47:38 ]
RE: [Charles] how could i get a job like yours when i am a grown up?
Study math and science! Study math and science! Math is just the language of science, and science is the foundation of technology. Studying the basics in math and science will give you a tremendous number of opportunities.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 84 - 10:50:28 ]
RE: [Linda] Can you explain what a Laser diode is
A laser is a source of coherent radiation, meaning roughly that all of the light that comes out has the same wavelength (color). When lasers were invented in the 1960's, they were made by electrically exciting crystals and gases. Laser diodes are very small sources of coherent light that use semiconductor technology, like we use for computers. You can power them with little batteries. You may have seen them in laser pointers.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 85 - 10:51:05 ]
RE: [jason] what is a plasma engin?
A plasma engine heats up gas to form a plasma and then shoots it out of a nozzle to create thrust.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 87 - 10:51:50 ]
RE: [Melissa] Do yu think your little girl would like to work at NASA?
She's only four, but she tells me she no longer wants to be a veterarian so she can work for NASA and build robots!

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 88 - 10:52:24 ]
RE: [Andrea] bye, thanks for answering my questions.
Good bye, thanks for your questions.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 91 - 10:54:06 ]
RE: [Linda] Thanks for your answers what is plasma?
Plasma is a state of matter, just like solid, gas, and liquid.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 93 - 10:55:29 ]
RE: [jason] Bye!!
Bye Jason, I hope you get to build an engine.

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 94 - 10:56:18 ]
RE: [Susan/NASAChatHost] Wow this has been a great chat! Thanks everyone for coming and thanks to Carolyn. I think we all learned a lot!
Thanks everyone for your great questions. I hope you get a chance to study hard and learn great things!

[ CarolynMercer/GRC - 95 - 10:57:05 ]
Good bye!

 
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