Students and several instructors participating in the 2010 SARP program gathered for a group photo with NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory prior to their flights. (Jane Peterson/NSERC)
Science Mission Immersion: NASA/NSERC Student Airborne Research Program
Twenty-eight undergraduate and graduate college students are participating in a six-week Airborne Science field experience designed to immerse them in NASA's Earth Science research. The students represent 22 colleges and universities across the United States and in two foreign countries, India and Mexico.
NASA's Student Airborne Research Program, or SARP, runs from June 20 to July 30 in California. The program began with lectures from university faculty members from four universities, NASA scientists and from research program managers at the University of California, Irvine, including UCI's Dr. Sherwood Rowland, a Nobel Laureate in chemistry and long-time user of NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory for his research on atmospheric chemistry.
At NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., students in the program were given a rare behind-the-scenes look at the instrument integration, flight planning and payload testing that is the basis of every successful Earth Science airborne campaign carried out by NASA, whether on the DC-8 or other science aircraft. These campaigns play a pivotal role in the calibration and validation of NASA's space-borne Earth observations, remote sensing measurements and the high-resolution imagery for Earth system science.
Divided into investigative groups to study atmospheric effects of dairy emissions, evapo-transpiration from orchards and row crops, and distribution and abundance of giant kelp, the students flew aboard the converted jetliner for an experiment check flight and the five- to six-hour data-collection flights.
From its base at NASA's Palmdale facility, the modified DC-8 science laboratory flew north over almond and cotton fields in California's San Joaquin Valley, crisscrossed the valley at 1,000 feet above ground from just south of Fresno to the Stockton area and over coastal valleys between Monterey and Camp Roberts to collect air samples, and then flew over Monterey Bay and the Santa Barbara Channel at 10,500 feet altitude to study giant kelp beds.
"The program was a great experience for me because I was fully involved in all aspects of a NASA mission, from flight planning to the flight itself to the data analysis and presentation of what we learned,” said Robert Carroll, a University of New Hampshire graduate student in chemical engineering.
The student program is one of NASA's tools for training future scientists for Earth Science missions that support environmental study and the development and testing of new instruments and future satellite mission concepts. The program's goal is to stimulate interest in NASA's Earth Science research and aid in recruitment of the next generation of engineers and scientists.
Through this and other college and university programs, NASA is developing critical skills and capabilities needed for the agency's engineering, scientific and technical missions.
The Student Airborne Research Program is managed through the National Suborbital Education and Research Center at the University of North Dakota, with funding and support from NASA's Airborne Science program. The center was established through a cooperative agreement between the University of North Dakota and NASA.
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Leslie Williams, Public Affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center