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UPDATE #29 - August 7, 1998

PART 1: Back to School Special
PART 2: Chat with Grant Palmer!
PART 3: The Mars 2001 Program
PART 4: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it


Well even if you aren't a parent, teacher or a student,  the sales
inserts and signs on the shops have reminded you that it's time to sharpen
pencils and get ready for Back to School! Wright Flyer Online Site has
several new back to school specials.

I want to call your attention to the Teachers' Guide in the Teachers'
Lounge. If you want to teach a mini-unit about the Wright Brothers and
infuse the modern technology and aeronautics aspect into it, you'll find
it in the Lounge. If you would prefer to make a day or two of it and focus
on the Wright Flyer and the wind tunnel tests, you could do that instead.
In other words, these materials were designed to allow you to pick and
choose as you structure your own mini-unit or thematic day's activities
around the Wright Flyer Replica. We hope you find these materials helpful
informative as you seek to enrich your own curriculum with these
supplemental materials. Enjoy!

We've added some rich content including biographies of some of the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Los Angeles Chapter
Members biographies. http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/team/
While you are at it check out the Wright Brothers Parallel Timeline
in the history background section and the video clips of Dr. Roxanna
Green and and Larry Meyn from the "Exploring Aeronautics" CD-ROM in the
Wind Tunnel Section.http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/tunnels/

Kids should have fun playing the new wordsearch and slider puzzle games in
the kids section and choosing their favorite shot of Mugsy in the Photo
Gallery. http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/

Finally I must recognize the contribution of Sharp Student, (summer
intern), Stephen Haas.  Without his hard work I wouldn't be able to
tell you all these new things were online. I wish him great success in his
senior year at Bellarmine Prep.


Tuesday, August 11, 9:30 a.m. Pacific: Grant Palmer, computational fluid
dynamics engineer

When a spacecraft such as the space shuttle returns to Earth from space,
the friction caused by the air rushing past the surface of a vehicle
causes it to heat up. Grant writes computer programs that predict how hot
the vehicle surface will get. Grant's work is part of a larger process
called computational fluid dynamics (CFD). His work is important because
without CFD, spacecraft designers would have to guess how hot a vehicle
would get. If their guesses are wrong, a vehicle would either be heavier
than it had to be or get damaged when it returned to Earth.

Read Grant's autobiography before joining this chat.
Registration for this chat will begin on July 28.

[Editor's Note: Grant Palmer writes computer programs that predict how hot vehicles will get during landing. This is good to know because we at NASA don't want folks or equipment to get too hot!]


by Grant Palmer
June 2, 1998

The Mars 2001 program is one of a series of planetary missions to Mars
being planned in the next 10 years. It consists of two vehicles,
an orbiter that will study the atmosphere and a lander that will take soil
samples. The project is a joint effort between NASA, the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, JPL, and

My group here at NASA Ames, the Reacting Flow Environments Branch, has the
responsibility of computing the thermal environments
the vehicles will experience when it enters the Martian atmosphere. In
space there are no gas molecules (or not very many) so the
spacecraft just sails along, but in an atmosphere the gas particles hit
the spacecraft and cause the surface to heat up. My job was to use a
computer program to compute exactly how hot the surfaces of the vehicles
will get.

Since the project managers work in Pasedena, CA and Denver, CO, I spend a
lot of the time in the beginning in teleconferences and
sending email. I receive a surface geometry data file from JPL and a
trajectory file from Lockheed-Martin. With this input data, I am able
to begin my calculations.

One of the interesting features of the Martian atmosphere is that it is
dusty. The Mars 2001 vehicles are supposed to enter the Martian
atmosphere during a period when a dust storm is likely to be occurring. We
develop a computer program to determine how much of the
vehicle heatshield will be eroded due to impact with the atmospheric dust.
The heatshield material is manufactured by Lockheed-Martin
and there is a limit to how thick it can be made. If there is a lot of
erosion due to dust, the heatshield might not be thick enough to protect
the vehicle. It turns out there isn't that much erosion, so everyone is

One cool thing about the orbiter is that it will use aerocapture to slow
itself down when it reaches Mars. Aerocapture means the vehicle
will use the friction caused by the atmosphere to slow down to the point
where it can orbit the planet. This is to be the first use of
aerocapture in a planetary mission.

Then last month something bad happened. Lockheed-Martin experienced a
budget cut in the Mars 2001 program and the mission had to
be re-structured. The orbiter mission was cancelled and the lander vehicle
is still being re-worked as I write this. We are all disappointed
because we have done a lot of work on the orbiter and we wanted to see if
the aerocapture concept worked. This kind of program
re-structuring happens a lot which is why people you see on TV are all
very happy when their mission actually flies.


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