NASA is once again represented at the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M., where visitors to the fiesta's Discovery Center have an opportunity to learn about NASA's work to improve the efficiency of the nation's aircraft and aviation systems. The 40th annual edition of the colorful event began Oct. 1 and continues through Oct. 9.
Though most persons are aware of NASA's space mission, fewer are familiar with its aeronautics efforts conducted at four field centers across the nation: Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif., Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
"We are excited to again have a lead role in the aeronautics exhibit in the balloon fiesta's Discovery Center and help them celebrate 40 years of the fiesta," said Mary Ann Harness, aeronautics exhibit coordinator and a public outreach specialist at NASA Dryden.
With a history of developing key technologies for all aspects of aviation, NASA aeronautics is looking to do so again with its latest "green aviation" initiative, through which NASA will test and integrate technologies designed to reduce aircraft noise and emissions, maximize fuel efficiency and improve air-traffic management. New to the NASA exhibit in Albuquerque this year is a hybrid-wing body aircraft model that illustrates ideas on how green aviation concepts might be realized.
"There is a lot to see at our exhibit, including our green aviation display that shows we are looking for ways to make Earth a better place while continuing to fly airplanes," Harness added. "We also have a lot of hands-on activities and games for people of all ages to have fun and learn about what NASA aeronautics does."
The NASA exhibit at the balloon fiesta includes daily demonstrations by former Dryden aerospace engineering technician Jim Sokolik of a high-altitude pressure suit used by pilots of the Mach 3 SR-71 and the high-altitude ER-2 Earth resources aircraft.
Other exhibit highlights include:
- An F-15 cockpit simulator that gives visitors the chance to picture themselves in the pilot's seat of the high-performance jet.
- A space shuttle tire flown on the orbiter Discovery during the STS-116 mission in late 2006.
- A small flow-visualization wind tunnel that shows how such tunnels are used for airflow research on different aircraft shapes.
- A timeline of aviation milestones that details the history of NASA aeronautics achievements.
- A kiosk that features a NASA aeronautics memory game about key NASA aircraft in history or a virtual airport, where visitors zoom in to see how NASA technologies have found their way onto military, commercial and general aviation aircraft and helicopters.
NASA's space science work is also in focus, with a model of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, on display. The SOFIA, a highly modified Boeing 747SP with a 2.5-meter infrared telescope installed in its rear fuselage, scans the heavens at altitudes above the water vapor in Earth's atmosphere that obscures ground-based infrared telescopes. The SOFIA display introduces visitors to the infrared spectrum by allowing them to see themselves on a monitor through the lens of an infrared video camera.
As the fiesta is focused on hot air balloons, NASA is appropriately displaying a half-scale inflatable model of a NASA F/A-18 mission support aircraft at the entrance to the agency's exhibit.
› Former Astronaut Mike Mullane Talks Shuttle at the Fiesta
Jay Levine, editor, The X-Press
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center