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The Final Chapter

by Anne Corwin

March 19,1999

The upstairs offices are eerily empty; the tunnel is once more cool and silent; the Wright Flyer replica is partially disassembled atop its perch on the sting. The tunnel phase of the test is over, but of course, the Wright Flyer Project continues--the team is approaching the time when they will be able to actually fly a working replica on the 100th anniversary of the First Flight.

This was a great project to participate in, and hopefully I will be able to participate further by helping the test personnel here at NASA sort out the data gathered during the test. It still amazes me that, with all the computer technology and other advanced calculation equipment humans have developed, we still haven't quite figured out how the Wright Brothers were able to get off the ground the first time around. I actually found out this fact fairly recently; it made the test seem that much more special and exciting. Excuse me while I get philosophical...

One of the things I have learned from this test is that science and engineering are not entirely separate from things such as art, poetry, and philosophy. All of these endeavors stem from humankind's desire to organize and demonstrate mastery of the universe in the form of knowledge. A person makes a discovery and in doing so contributes to the general pool of human knowledge. A person writes a poem and in doing so widens the angle through which humankind may view the world. The Wright Brothers built an airplane and in doing so changed the course of history by giving a third degree of freedom to our motion atop and about the earth's surface.

Though I didn't actually get to witness much of the test (it took place on a 3 PM to midnight shift, and I leave at 4 PM) I had fun attending the meetings and bothering people in the control room about what all the screen displays meant. The control room is REALLY cool-looking: it reminds me of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. There are computer monitors and screens everywhere. There are stacks of equipment and control panels with colored lights and levers and weird dials. It's kind of intimidating...I want to know what EVERYTHING does in there!

Yesterday was Employee Day...employees at Ames were invited to come in the tunnel and view the replica, and to bring their families in between 11 AM and 2 PM. There was a huge response, despite the five billion stairs that have to be climbed in order to reach the tunnel. (Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little on the number of stairs, but there ARE a lot!) It was neat to see so many people showing an interest in the Flyer. After the crowds trickled away, a crew photo was taken. That was such a surreal experience...I couldn't get over the fact that I was being included in a NASA crew photo. Like I mentioned to a few people, it seems as if just yesterday I was in kindergarten being told to get back in my seat!

I guess to conclude my set of Wright Flyer Journals I would like to say that I greatly appreciate everyone on the project's willingness to let me help out, to trust me to do the rigging plan correctly, to tell me about their various experiences, and to answer all my questions! I will definitely give this test a place in the Really Good Memories box in my brain. Also, to everyone who visited this website and followed the test and participated in chats or any combination of those, thanks for visiting! Keep on the lookout for more NASA projects...
Anne =]


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