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Society of Physics Students Tours Kennedy Facilities, Laboratories
Research scientist Michael Johansen describes dust mitigation technology to Society of Physics students

Image above: Inside a laboratory in the Engineering Development Laboratory at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, research scientist Michael Johansen, in the blue polo shirt, describes dust mitigation technology to a group of Society of Physics students. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston
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Inside the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Laboratory in the Engineering Development Laboratory (EDL) at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, research physicist Dr. Phil Metzger described lunar excavators and soil processing technologies to a small group of Society of Physics students Nov. 8.

Meanwhile, in a laboratory in the Operations and Checkout Building (O&C), chemical engineer Dr. Mary Coan and aerospace engineer Katherine Brewer explained components of the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction, or RESOLVE, rover to another group of physics students.

These students were among the 800 undergraduate and graduate members of the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society who descended upon the center for a drive-by tour of the Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch Complex 39, Shuttle Landing Facility and the Industrial Area.

"The students were very engaged and many were actually taking notes as we talked," Metzger said. "I kept asking them questions that they could figure out on their own, and I was pleased at how often they got the correct answers just by reasoning it out."

Brewer said she had fun watching the college students look at the RESOLVE hardware and understand the magnitude of what this mission is working to achieve on the moon.

"Hopefully, we passed on our excitement about working at Kennedy and inspired them to believe that they could be the physicists of tomorrow working on future NASA research and development projects," Brewer said.

Justin Provance, a physics student in his senior year at Marquette University in Wisconsin enjoyed the tour.

"It was very cool to see the development in progress rather than just reading about it," Provance said.

Maria Russert, from Georgia State University said, "It's pretty awesome."

In the Applied Physics Laboratory, lead physicist Dr. Bob Youngquist demonstrated some of the unusual technologies that were developed for the Space Shuttle Program. Included in his presentation were an orbiter window inspection technique, an ultrasonic leak detector device and an orbiter tile drying system.

These inventions caught the attention of physics graduate student Samuel Sekwao from the University of Illinois at Urbana and Champagne. Sekwao, who currently is working on his doctorate, said he was enjoying everything he had seen so far.

"There are some interesting things here," Sekwao said of the technologies.

Inside the Electrostatic and Surface Physics Laboratory at the EDL, senior research scientist Dr. Carlos Calle and members of his team presented four technologies: dust mitigation, regolith derived heat shields, Differential Electrostatic Spectrometer for Mars rovers, and an LED-based lighting system for long-duration human missions.

"The students were keenly interested in all of the projects that we described to them," Calle said. "We showed them some of the regolith heat shield coupons that we made, and tested and demonstrated the dust mitigation technology."

The tour was coordinated by Kennedy's Education and External Relations Directorate.

Education specialist Beth Smith said it was honor to host the honor society students at Kennedy.

"This event allowed the students to see firsthand what exciting careers await them with NASA," Smith said. "They were such an enthusiastic group and that made the logistics of handling a total of 800 students in such a short period of time a smooth operation."

The students were in Orlando, attending the 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress from Nov. 8-10. This year's theme was "Connecting Worlds through Science and Service."
Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center