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ATO #113 - July 7, 2000

PART 1: Upcoming Chats
PART 2: New Projects for Fall
PART 3: Working with Cool Materials


Beat the Heat: Thermal Protection Chats!
We will be chatting and with researchers from the Space
Technology Division at NASA Ames Research Center. I think you will find
this fascinating and a worthwhile topic. This will introduce you to the
topic of materials for thermal protection and the use of computer models
for predicting the heat generated by vehicles entering different
planetary atmospheres. This is a very important topic for those of you who
plan to travel in space in the near future.
Tuesday, July 11, 2000 10 AM Pacific
Christine Johnson, Researcher,
Christine has been doing tests on thermal protection materials that can
be made into flexible materials which can be made into thermal blankets,
not the kind you sleep with but the kind they wrap over the top of
shuttle. How's that for cool?
Read her bio at http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/cjohnson.html
Tuesday, July 25, 2000, 1:00 - 2:00  PM Pacific
Aerospace Team Online QuestChat with Grant Palmer
When an aerospace vehicle like the Space Shuttle  returns to Earth from
space, the friction caused by the air rushing past the surface of the
vehilcle causes it to heat up. Grant Palmer writes computer programs that
predict how hot these vehicle surfaces will get.
Read his bio at http://quest.nasa.gov/aero/team/palmer.html
Tuesday, August 8, 2000, 10 - 11 AM Pacific
Aerospace Team Online QuestChat with Chuck Cornelison
Chuck Cornelison, Ballistics Range Manager
The ballistics range is the opposite of a wind tunnel. Instead of
blowing air over an object, objects are fired by guns through still air.
Learn all about it!


Virtual Skies is an air traffic management project for students and
teachers in Grades 9-12. It will be a "project based learning
activity" with hands on multimedia to enhance student decision making   
and problem solving skills. Topics to be covered include
Aviation Navigation, Aviation Weather, Communication Air Traffic
Management, Airport Design, and Air Traffic Research. Materials will be
tied to the National Standards in Mathematics, Science, Technology,
Geography and Language Arts. Stay tuned for more news as we crank up over
the summer!
Planetary Flight is an aerospace project for Grades 4-8. (more reason to
attend summer chats). We know how to fly on Earth but what will it
take to fly on Mars. This will be an inquiry based learning project to  
design an airplane to fly on Mars. The stuff dreams are made of!! We will
also be keeping you posted on this one this summer.


By Christine Johnson
July 7, 2000

I work in the Thermal Protection Materials and Systems Branch at NASA Ames
Research Center.  I primarily work in two areas - ablator and felt Thermal
Protection Systems (TPS).  A TPS material protects a spacecraft from the
intense heat when it enters another planet's atmosphere or when the
spacecraft returns into earth'9s atmosphere.
Ablator materials can withstand very high heating environments as they
dissipate the heat by actually losing some of the material.  We have
developed very lightweight ablator TPS materials that have been used on
recent missions.  One material was used on Mars Pathfinder and another is
on the Stardust spacecraft, which is currently collecting dust from a
comet and will bring it back to earth in 2006.  My daily work with these  
materials includes building test models to test in NASA Ames arc jet test
facilities.  Arc jet test facilities can simulate the intense heating
environment these materials will experience.  We test a lot of models to
get a sense of how the material will behave and if we need to do some
additional development work.  They are several upcoming Mars missions in
the planning stages, so I support those efforts by helping in designing
the TPS for that particular mission and conducting the arc jet tests.  

Felt TPS materials are currently used on the Space Shuttle and almost
resemble a carpet in some ways.  You can roll it out, cut it to shape, and
even walk on it.  It is lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to maintain.  
These are all great qualities for a TPS, so we are currently working on
developing a felt TPS that can withstand much higher temperatures than the
one used on the Space Shuttle.  This way, it can be used in a lot more
places on the vehicle.  We are currently working in the laboratory on   
small pieces of these materials and will be arc jet testing them soon to
see how well they perform.

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