Laptops, cameras and microphones were busy during opening briefings at the NASA Social at Dryden May 4, including a briefing from deputy center director Pat Stoliker (right center panel) on what Dryden does for NASA, the nation and the public at large.
Eyes Aloft, Ears Open – NASA Social attendees scanned the skies as a high-flying NASA F/A-18 left a contrail and accelerated through Mach 1, creating a sonic boom during a pilot proficiency flight.
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NASA Social@Dryden guest Jackie Silver tries on a partial G-suit and helmet worn by pilots of Dryden's high-performance research and mission support aircraft under the watchful eyes of Dryden life support technician Phil Wellner.
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Dryden aerospace engineers Ethan Baumann and Natalie Spivey (at far left) outline the ACTE flexible-flap laminar-flow research project on the Gulfstream III test aircraft behind them to the NASA Social@Dryden participants.
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The autograph table staffed by Dryden pilots and flight test engineers (from left) Troy Asher, Jim Less, Herman Posada, Mark Pestana, Ashley Parham, Kate Pavlock and Nils Larson was a popular highlight of the NASA Social@Dryden.
› View Larger Image Friday, May 4, marked another first for NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center.
More than 50 followers of NASA's social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ visited the NASA field center on Edwards Air Force Base during its first "NASA Social," an all-day behind-the-scenes look and the planes, people and projects that make up NASA Dryden today.
NASA social media followers were briefed on the center's history and role within the nation's aerospace agency and several of the center's current research projects and missions. They also had the chance to speak with a number of Dryden engineers, pilots and technicians, and got up-close-and-personal with several research and mission-support aircraft during a tour of some of Dryden's facilities.
"The work we do here enables the work NASA does," said NASA Dryden center director David McBride in his opening greetings to the assemblage.
Among research projects and programs highlighted at Dryden's NASA Social were Automatic Collision Avoidance Technology, the Flight Opportunities Program, Airborne Science, Environmentally Responsible Aviation, and sonic boom analysis and mitigation. Several specialized Dryden facilities were also in focus, including the Life Support facility, the Flight Loads Laboratory and the Experimental Fabrication Shop. Briefings on Dryden's photography and videography operations that support its flight research mission were also on the afternoon schedule.
Visitors were treated to close-up views of several historic and current research aircraft – the X-1E rocket plane, the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, the M2-F1 lifting body, the autonomously operated Global Hawk unmanned Earth science aircraft, the Ikhana / Predator B unmanned aircraft system, a Gulfstream-III business jet being modified for laminar airflow research and several of Dryden's F/A-18 mission support aircraft.
"The thing that impresses me the most is the research at Dryden that benefits so many people," commented Craig Fifer, one of the NASA Social attendees. "A lot of time research seems abstract, but we saw the connection about what NASA does that applies to everyday life," Fifer said.
NASA Social attendees also had opportunity to have their photos taken in the cockpit of an F/A-18 and even heard a real sonic boom during the event, a common occurrence over Dryden's campus at Edwards Air Force Base.
The sonic boom, created by a NASA F/A-18 as it pierced the sound barrier during a research mission support flight, followed by a low-level flyover a few minutes later impressed Camryn Prevost, a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne mechanical engineer.
"An event like this is amazing not just for taking pictures, but also for the ability to share it with my friends on social media," he said.
NASA Dryden public affairs staffer Lisa Mattox of Tybrin Corp., who organized Dryden's NASA Social, said the event was very successful.
"We had an enthusiastic group attend our social from all over the United States," she said. "They soaked up all the information we provided for them through staff presentations and walks through some of our facilities. They then used social media to help us reach new audiences with what we do at Dryden and the value that NASA adds to people's lives," she added.
Dryden's first NASA Social followed an experimental "Tweetup" last year when it hosted about 10 followers of NASA's Twitter account during a news conference for NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy at its Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.
"We found it was a great way to communicate directly with our social media constituency, and indirectly with their followers," said Dryden Strategic Communications chief Kevin Rohrer.
NASA social media followers can follow the center's activities on its Twitter account, @NASADryden and on its Facebook page.
More than 50 of NASA's social media followers who gathered in the auditorium at NASA Dryden tweeted and posted to their hearts' content during opening briefings at the NASA Social May 4.