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ATO #106 - April 28, 2000

PART 1: Upcoming Chats
PART 2: Project News
PART 3: The Job of a NASA Aerospace/Optical Engineer


QuestChats require pre-registration. Unless otherwise
noted, registration
is at:  http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/chats/

Tuesday, May 2, 2000 10 - 11 AM Pacific
Chat with Carolyn Mercer

Carolyn Mercer has and continues to find ways to use lasers and light to
measure aircraft performance during testing. Read her bio at

Tuesday, May 9, 2000 9 - 10 AM Pacific
Chat with Mary Reveley

Mary Reveley works with a propulsion systems analysis systems group to
determine how aircraft and engine designs will perform.
measure aircraft performance during testing. Read her bio at


"Regimes of Flight"

Regimes of Flight Art Contest, Grades 4-8

The entries are coming in!
For more information go to

[Editor's Note: Carolyn Mercer is a manager of researchers at NASA Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, Ohio. The research she oversees studies how lasers can be used to obtain data about air, like how it moves, and the pressure it has above and below wings. Read her bio at http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/mercer.html ]

The Job of a NASA Aerospace/Optical Engineer

by Carolyn Mercer

March, 1999

I am an aerospace engineer and an optical engineer.  I studied both
aeronautics and optical physics, and I've spent most of my career
inventing new ways to use lasers and light to measure aerodynamic
properties like gas temperature and density.  This is important because
new aircraft designs need to be tested to make sure they'll work, and with
lasers we can measure flows without disrupting them.  Imagine trying to
measure the velocity of wind going by your car window.  You could stick a
special probe called a pitot probe out your window to measure the pressure
and infer the velocity (the old way), or you could shine a laser beam out
the window and detect changes to the light to determine the velocity (the
new way).   There are pros and cons to both ways, and my job was to
improve the capability of optical measurement techniques to make them work
better, last longer, and cost less.  Specifically, I worked to 1) measure
the flow inside of internal combustion engines (like in cars) to test  
designs for improving fuel economy, 2) I co-invented a way to use
structured laser illumination to measure the shape of solid surfaces for
manufacturing processes, and 3) I invented a liquid crystal/laser device 
to measure fluid temperature, density, or concentration for microgravity  

I currently manage a group of thirteen researchers who are all inventing
new ways to measure things using optics.  One person is inventing a way to
measure the air velocity inside an aircraft engine compressor operating at
very high speeds, one is trying to measure the surface pressure on ice 
shapes that grow on airplane wings, others are measuring the chemical
properties of combustion gases inside jet engines, others are developing
electro-optic sensors for use on Mars, and still others are inventing ways
to use optical fibers to measure the health of aerospace engines.

My job is to make sure that these people are working on the right things
to satisfy NASA's needs, to make sure they're doing a good job and to   
reward them for it, to secure the resources that they need to do their
job, and to provide career growth opportunities for them.  This involves  
meeting with NASA program managers to make sure that I understand the  
current Agency needs, meeting with managers in industry so I understand
their needs and capabilities, meeting with the researchers so I understand
what they're doing, filling out paper work to let my senior management
know what's going on and to give credit to the researchers, and serving on
various review boards.  I also get to make presentations to groups of
people to let them know about what we're up to.

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