Hot-air balloons of every design and color head skyward during a mass ascension at the 2008 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. NASA will once again be represented at the 2012 balloon fiesta with exhibits, displays and educational programs for attendees. (NASA file / Tony Landis) › View Larger Image
NASA Aeronautics Research on Display at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Find the F/A-18 and you’ll find the NASA display at the 41st annual International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M.
Not surprisingly at a balloon fiesta, the NASA research and mission support aircraft is a half-scale, inflatable model positioned at the entrance to the agency's exhibit.
People visiting NASA representatives at the fiesta's Discovery Center will have an opportunity to learn about NASA's work to improve the efficiency of the nation's aircraft and aviation systems and even meet an astronaut during an appearance tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7. The event begins Oct. 6 and continues through Oct. 14.
NASA's exhibit focuses on 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.
“It’s going to be great to get back to Albuquerque and show off what NASA Aeronautics does. We will show some of the historic aeronautics work with a timeline of flight milestones that details the history of NASA aeronautics achievements and display concept aircraft that could lead the way to new business jets and commercial aircraft,” said Mary Ann Harness, aeronautics exhibit coordinator and public outreach specialist at Dryden. Dryden was selected to coordinate NASA’s exhibit.
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.
Former NASA Astronaut Mike Mullane, a veteran of three space shuttle missions, is scheduled to give insights into the shuttle program and life as an astronaut Oct. 7. The 30-year Space Shuttle program ended in 2011 and the shuttle prototype and three orbiters were delivered to locations around the United States this year where they will be displayed. The date of Mullane’s talk is flexible, so those in the Albuquerque area can watch for announcements on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta site at http://www.balloonfiesta.com
In addition, the display also will include a replica of the wheel used by the Curiosity Rover as it begins to investigate the Red Planet. The Mars Science Laboratory successfully landed Aug. 5 to end a 36-week trek from Earth. The most sophisticated rover ever built seeks to answer questions about whether Mars ever supported microbial life, or will be able to in the future.
NASA's space science work is also represented, 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.
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.
A tabletop pressure chamber will also demonstrate the effects of high-altitude travel. Attendees will have an opportunity to see water boil at low temperatures and marshmallow Peeps expand and contract with the altitude of the chamber, Harness said.
Other exhibit highlights include:
Scores of students at an Albuquerque area elementary school peppered former NASA Dryden life support technician Jim Sokolik with questions during his presentation on full pressure suits worn by astronauts and pilots of high-altitude aircraft prior to the 2012 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. (NASA / May Ann Harness) › View Larger Image
- An F-15 cockpit simulator 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 photo kiosk permits visitors to the NASA exhibit to take a picture in a virtual environment where they are in a spacesuit on the moon or Mars at no cost.
- 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.
By Jay Levine, editor, The X-Press
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center