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August 22, 2000
QuestChat with Susan Fehres

Research/Mechanical Engineer
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 3 - 09:59:18 ]
Good morning chatters! Welcome to the chat, Who's out there today and how are you?

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 4 - 09:59:21 ]
RE: [Susan/NASAChatHost] Welcome, TO the chat with Susan Fehres!
Thanks, I am glad to be here.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 5 - 10:02:36 ]
Susan, can you tell us a little about your most recent work?

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 12 - 10:09:30 ]
I am by training a Mechanical Engineer, specializing in heat transfer. My most recent work is related to improving spacecraft insulation. Spacecraft experience extremes of temperature, and I have been working on improved insulation for cryogenic tanks - so that insulation must operate between REALLY cold , 20 or 50 degrees Kelvin, to really hot - 2000 Kelvin.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 13 - 10:13:36 ]
RE: [Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool] OK. Susan, in your bio you said that in school you liked sciences because every class let you know something about the world. I think this quote appeals to me a lot.
Thank you for telling me that. I'm glad that resonates with you. I still believe that there seems to be 'order' in the world of things, but there don't seem to be understandable natural laws of people's interactions as seen through human history. When we understand science, we can use it.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 16 - 10:18:43 ]
RE: [Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool] Is it often said that you can't study to join the NASA. NASA just calls you if you are overstanding in engineering or sciences. Do you agree?
Somehow, I used to think that, too. But NASA won't call you - you apply for a job. And when you apply, you want to be an outstandingly well qualified candidate , of course! But you can study the fields that are clearly useful to NASA - engineering, math, the physical sciences. And being outstanding is strongly affected by how much effort you put into to your work, which is school work for you now: being trained for adult work.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 19 - 10:24:57 ]
RE: [Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool] Is it often said that you can't study to join the NASA. NASA just calls you if you are overstanding in engineering or sciences. Do you agree?
There have been certain people recruited by NASA because of their special abilities. But mostly, the thousands of NASA employees are more like myself - they applied for a job at NASA, perhaps after being encouraged by someone else, and were delighted to be offered the chance to spend their work time years and efforts being part of such an interesting and challenging mission! Your work career will span decades - it's a great thing to be able to spend that effort on work that offers so much.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 23 - 10:31:01 ]
RE: [Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool] I see. Do you think a telecoms engineer can join the NASA?
NASA does a lot of communication work: think of talking to astronauts, unmanned spacecraft, medical and other monitors, computers. And then there must be an independent backup system in place too.

[ Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool - 24 - 10:32:20 ]
That's good backing for me: I want to study telecoms

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 26 - 10:42:03 ]
RE: [Susan/NASAChatHost] Susan, what are the recent breakthroughs in thermal protection
Recent breakthroughs in Thermal Protection... There are amazing developments right now. We have very efficient specialized ablators which have flown space missions. Ablators are materials that burn off to soak up excess heat. We believe we have a photograph showing one of our new materials, in the shape of a backplate, lying on the surface of Mars after that spacecraft entered the Mars atmosphere. Other new materials will be used on very high speed, very hot conditions, to build sharp-edged spacecraft. This is significant for several reasons - there would be no communications blackout during reentry of a sharp-nosed vehicle, as there must be for a blunt -nosed spacecraft. And you can control the vehicle's motion better. And finally, you can go faster. My own favorite new developments are, of course, work I am involved in, which is development of better, lighter, more efficient cryogenic fuel tank insulation. Before this, we couldn't reuse fuel tank insulation - too risky. But by improving that material, we can lower costs by reusing the insulation, and design better , more efficient spacecraft that can incorporate reusable tanks.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 30 - 10:52:29 ]
RE: [Prutha-PDaveCoralSpringsHighSchool] Hi Susan, I wanted to know if you have any part in the International Space Station .
We are specialized here. I myself do not am not working on the International Space Station for a good reason - I work on insulation to protect spacecraft and fuel tanks for the heat generated by friction created on slowing down during atmospheric entry, and - we don't want the Space Station to enter the atmosphere - it better stay up there in Space until we are finished with it and have built a better one! However, having said that, there is certain related work, and I may get involved in protecting the Int. Space Station from micrometeorites. I work with aerogels, very light weight materials sometimes called 'solid smoke'. There materials have been used to capture micrometeorites for study, so we may use them as detectors, possibly as protection.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 31 - 10:56:00 ]
RE: [Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool] What do you thing about the future of the International Station
Sorry I am such a slow typist. I never was willing to learn to do it fast. I think we need an occupied, long term Space Station, if we are ever to get a human footing off the planet. And that is needed, for adventure, for economic reasons, and for long term survival of the human race.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 32 - 10:57:52 ]
There are about five minutes left to our chat today. Wow this has been so interesting! Susan we have learned a lot from you clear answers. and thanks to Albert, Prutha and Shaheera

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 35 - 11:03:38 ]
RE: [Shaheera-Ms.sciencecollege] Hi, I'm 15 years-old and I was wondering what is the hardest part of your job and why? And how long does it usually take you to finish a project?
Good question - The hardest part of my job? Maybe, Because of the nature or personality traits of the kind of people many people in engineering and science would rather completely and fully understand something, than to wrap up a project and move on. But you never fully understand complex things. And, of course, projects need parts delivered, right away, for the projects to move forward.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 36 - 11:05:13 ]
RE: [Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool] Susan, talking about the new cryogenic tanks, what are they for? I mean, what do they contain?
Briefly, liquid oxygen (54 Kelvin) and liquid hydrogen (20K)

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 37 - 11:08:08 ]
Thanks everyone this has been a terrific chat!

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 40 - 11:12:01 ]
RE: [Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool] OK. I've had a very good time. Could you give us, Susan, a final advice on our interest in aeronautics?
Final advice - focus on useful classes like math, physical sciences and engineering courses. But don't get obsessed over it - develop your own personal life too, so you have some balance, good friends, and fun, so you know you are doing the right thing for you. Notice what you like and what you hate, and move in the direction of what you enjoy. Myself, I migrated as an undergraduate from environmental engineering to material science, and I am glad I did. Notice I am not an 'aero' - not that many people are, and many many different specialties are required for an enterprise like NASA. and even if your first job is not what you want as a final job, it is just a step in the direction you want to go in.

[ Albert-Sasidharmvs/oxfordschool - 41 - 11:12:20 ]
OK. Nice to meet you Susan. Bye.

[ SusanFehres/ARC - 42 - 11:14:08 ]
Thanks - I had a great time too. All the best!

[ Shaheera-Ms.sciencecollege - 44 - 11:14:47 ]
I had a great time..

[ Shaheera-Ms.sciencecollege - 45 - 11:16:14 ]
thank you for taking time to answer our question, susan

[ Shaheera-Ms.sciencecollege - 46 - 11:16:31 ]
I really appreciate it

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 49 - 11:24:29 ]
Be sure to check out this chat in the archives, and send us your comments about this chat at http://quest.nasa.gov/qchats.


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