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UPDATE #62 - April 30, 1999

PART 1: Upcoming Chat
PART 2: Project News
PART 3: The Design of the Mars Airplane
PART 4: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it


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

Quest celebrates SPACE DAY with SPECIAL CHAT SERIES!!
May 6, 1999 8-1PM
Take advantage of this unusual opportunity to chat with different
classes and different times during the day.

Thursday, May 6, 1999, 8 AM Pacific Daylight Time:
Space Team Online/Female Frontiers QuestChat with Laura Hoppe

Laura ensures that all instrumentation and communication officers (INCOs)
fully prepare an orbiter's communication systems before another mission.
Read Laura's profile prior to the chat:

Thursday, May 6, 1999, 9 AM Pacific Daylight Time:
Aerospace Team Online QuestChat with
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 Palmer's profile prior to joining this chat at

Thursday, May 6, 1999, 10 AM Pacific Daylight Time:
Women of NASA/Female Frontiers QuestChat with Julie Mikula.

Julie manages the Flight Simulation Laboratories (SimLab) Facility, which
includes the world's largest motion base simulator -- the Vertical Motion
Read Julie's profile prior to the chat:

Thursday, May 6, 1999, 11 AM Pacific Daylight Time:
Space Scientists Online QuestChat with Sten Odenwald

As a radio astronomer, Sten Odenwald enjoys sharing
his research and love of space with kids from 9 to 99!
Read Sten's profile prior to the chat:

Wednesday, May 12, 1999, 10 AM Pacific Daylight Time:
Brent Nowlin, electrical operations engineer

Brent works in a facility that tests the performance of
medium- and large-scale gas turbines (like those used on commercial
airliners). Brent is responsible for ensuring that instruments and control
systems work properly in the turbine facility. He leads a team that is
responsible for overseeing and conducting research testing on the
facility. The goal of the testing is to increase the efficiency of the
Read Brent Nowlin's profile prior to joining this chat at


Please return your survey!

Please take a minute to complete the Aerospace Team Online Customer
Survey and send it back as a reply, or if you prefer you may complete it
online at

Thanks for your help!

- - - - - - -

Congratulations to the Wright Flyer Online March Contest Winners!

1st - Robin Sloan, Cypress, CA  7th grade

2nd - David MacNaughton, Seattle, WA 6th grade

3rd - Mark Doering, 7th grade

1st place (K-3 division) Marie Cook, Misawa, Japan, Kindergarten

Honorable mention

Alison Colvin, Fillmore, Indiana, 6th grade
Brittany Claveran, Sonora Elementary School, CA  6th grade

Great Technical Writing- Morgan Carlise, Springville, TN 6th grade

Most interesting use of simile - Minami Minami, Kobe, Japan, 4th grade

Most interesting use of onomatopoeia - Phillipe Han, Kobe, Japan, 4th

Most interesting use of figurative language - Cecil Lee, Kobe, Japan, 4th

Best picture book - Danielle Cook, Misawa, Japan, 4th grade

- - - - - - -

Right Flying Colaborative Projects

Several classes have shared their glider flight test results which are
Online at

Look for their final results which are beginning to appear at
http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/events/collaborative/final/  !

[Editor's Note: Grant Palmer uses computers to see how hot spacecraft get when the travel very fast back to earth. Read his profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/team/palmer.html ]

The Design of the Mars Airplane

by Grant Palmer

April 23, 1999

The idea for a Mars Airplane has been around since the 1960's. The purpose
of it would be to explore the Mars countryside over a much
wider range than a rover could and much closer up than from an orbiting
satellite. Someone had the idea of flying a Mars Airplane to commenorate
the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight on Earth, the Wright
Flyer at Kitty Hawk. The NASA Administrator embraced the idea. This
set off a frenzy of activity with several NASA centers trying to come up
with the best idea for the Mars Airplane.

Here at NASA Ames, there were three separate concepts that were analyzed.
The first two were low-speed vehicles that would be flown to Mars inside a
conventional space capsule. The capsule would enter the Martian
atmosphere and when it had decelerated enough, the airplane would deploy.

The third concept was for a supersonic airplane, meaning one that would
fly faster than the speed of sound. The supersonic Mars Airplane would
enter the atmosphere itself using advanced materials to keep the outer
skin cool. This is the concept that I was asked to help analyze.

I work in computational fluid dynamics. I write computer programs that
calculate how the air, or in this case Martian atmosphere, flows over the
body when it enters the atmosphere. Friction between the atmosphere and
the surface of the vehicle causes the outer temperature of the vehicle to
heat up. Part of my job is to see if the temperature will exceed the
maximum temperature of the vehicle.

The first thing I do is to generate a grid. The surface of the vehicle is
broken up into individual squares. The computer program will compute the
pressure and temperature in the center of each one of these squares. What
I really is to generate a 3-D grid, meaning that the Mars Airplane is
surrounded by cubes.

Once I have my grid, I'm ready to run the program. I get the atmospheric
conditions, velocity, density, temperature, from a trajectory expert. I
set up the input parameters and start to run the computation. It takes a
lot of computer time. The solution will require about 50 hours on the Cray
C90 computer. The C90 is the world's largest supercomputer.

In the old days, airplanes were built based on experiments and flight
tests. With futuristic concepts such as the Supersonic Mars Airplane, you
can't design it that way. There's no way to test the vehicle by experiment
and you can't flight test it since Mars is so far away. The design of this
type of vehicle will largely be done on computer.


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