Science in the Middle

doing 6th grade science – outside the box!

Egress training, and teachers become students

on September 15, 2015

First day at the Armstrong Flight Research Center, on site of the NASA facility where SOFIA calls home. This was a full day of training, briefings and photo opportunities.DSCN1163

Q: What do you do before embarking on a 10 hour, high altitude science mission?

Hint:  It’s longer than watching the short video on domestic flights!

A: A thorough safety overview of the plane and all necessary equipment – with audience participation – and then walking through it all on board the plane – called Egress Training!

No egress training, no flying. Very informative, very interesting, and  throughout the hallways of the building, we met many brilliant minds who filled us in more on the history of SOFIA.  In the halls, we spoke to a low-temperature physicist who told us about the cryogenics of keeping the telescope and instruments cool enough.  There are tanks that must be filled with liquid chemicals cooled to temperatures of 4.2 KELVIN! That’s just a few degrees above absolute zero!

Coral shows us a lot of moments in flight history in the photos adorning the walls of the second floor. We took so long, we almost missed our moment in the gift shop!

Coral shows us a lot of moments in flight history in the photos adorning the walls of the second floor. We took so long, we almost missed our moment in the gift shop!

Everyone on board must know how to deploy critical safety / escape equipment in case of emergency.  Each passenger must be able to correctly don their safety vest in less than one minute.

April Whitt tries to unpack, wear, and inflate the flotation vest in under one minute. That's why there is practice!

April Whitt tries to unpack, wear, and inflate the flotation vest in under one minute. That’s why there is practice!

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Susan Oltman wears the oxygen hood which can be worn in smoke or while escaping a fire, if it were to occur.

Mrs. Oltman in the Andrews FRS Hangar

This is the Earth Science plane! Some NASA craft look downwards onto Earth’s surface, depending on what the research needs are.

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The Atlanta SOFIA Ambassadors are in front of the FORCSAST instrument that the telescope will use. Note the red color – this is not seen on instrumentation! There was special permission given. It originated from Cornell University, known as “Big Red.”

After the safety briefing, we walked through the hangar and on board SOFIA to see everything firsthand.  It is not like any plane you’ve ever been on. Her mission is research, taking off and landing in the same place – not getting people from point A to point B. This is one of the largest planes – a 747S – and is a marvel of engineering, both inside and out. Inside, there is a “secret” place behind a door where some pretty famous people have signed (in my favorite type of pen, it seems). Can you see who signed at the top center?

Signatures of some notable SOFIA passengers

Signatures of some notable SOFIA passengers

Where will SOFIA be tomorrow?  You can find out by following the flight tracker link:

Flight tracking link:
http://airbornescience.nasa.gov/tracker/#view=map&mapid=_9&zoom=4&lat=34.6128&lng=-118.0747&callsign=NASA747

Now for the quiz:  What is egress? Comment below if you know!

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Our last on-site briefing of the day was Eddie Zavala who gave us a 30 minute overview of exactly what SOFIA is, where it goes, and why it is unlike any other space research vehicle. A takeaway is that “SOFIA figures out the chemical equations that tell us how stars form.” Here is a brief video of the training.

The SOFIA Ambassadors with Eddie Zavala

The SOFIA Ambassadors with Eddie Zavala

Looking forward to seeing the building blocks of these equations tomorrow night!

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