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Saturday, October 11, 2014

NASA Contest Winner

Last month we found out about a contest sponsored by NASA.  It was a few short questions about the ORION space exploration project.  Selected participants would get to take a special tour of the Johnson Space Center near Houston, Texas.  We were very excited to get an email saying that Sean had won!  Here is his guest blog post to tell about his experience:

The tour was the morning after our 4-H meeting.  So, immediately after the meeting, we loaded everyone into the van and headed off for Houston to a hotel for a brief sleep.  My mom and I woke up to see the "Blood Moon" of the lunar eclipse and then it was off to NASA.

We met at a conference center in Nassau Bay, TX.  There, we learned about a group called "Rockets to the Rescue".  This group plans to use rockets to deliver emergency supplies to victims of natural disasters.   We broke up into groups of group called ourselves "The Skittles."  We then had to calculate a launch angle to see how that affected the distance a rocket would travel.  We tested our calculations using rockets made of paper launched by blowing into a straw.  Did you know that a 45° angle gives you the most distance?

Then we went to the Space Center.  We rode on a tram to the Mission Control building, where they used to direct all NASA spaceflights, especially the APOLLO missions to the moon.  It was about the size of our living room, this is a pretty small room for so much history.

We were going to see where the astronauts trained, but they had a fire drill.  However, this gave us an opportunity to see the simulator instead.  We got to see the mid-deck of a shuttle, and it was really cool!  The cockpit was closed off, so we did not get to try flying the shuttle.

On the grounds, they have static displays of some of the rockets used by the early NASA missions, including a Mercury-Redstone and a Saturn V.

Then it was back to the Space Center building to make more paper rockets, launched from soda bottles.  These rockets carried a payload of four raisins, and we had to land our rocket in a specific location.  I got to shoot our rocket...dubbed the "strawberry"...later in the day and I got pretty close to the target location!  Awesome!

Then we had lunch (just sandwiches, no exciting astronaut food).

After lunch, we went to fly the tourist shuttle simulator.  We got to take off and deploy the Hubble Space Telescope!  Then we had to bring the shuttle back down for a safe landing.  It was a lot of fun!

Then we got to see a presentation about the ORION project.  NASA wants to use this to take people to Mars.  ORION tests this December, and launches in 2021.

After the ORION presentation, we learned about the food that astronauts eat!  Did you know that their favorite food is shrimp cocktail?  This is because food tastes very bland, but the horseradish in the cocktail sauce contains horseradish, and can still be tasted.

We then got to see some model rockets being launched by the local model rocket club.  This was pretty cool.  Even more cool was meeting Bill McArthur, a former Army officer and astronaut.  He is now the Director of Safety and Mission Assurance at the Johnson Space Center.

Then we were each given a goodie bag with lots of stuff, especially a personally autographed astronaut picture and a poster of Mars.  We were presented with a certificate and t-shirt for us to remember this day.

There was also a TV News reporter at the event and even though I was not interviewed, I was seen in several shots from the day!  This will be watched around the country for others to see what we did on National 4H Science Day!

This was a really awesome day!  My favorite part was seeing the astronaut food!  I would love to be able to go space and eat some of this food!  Now that I have been to NASA, I think they need a few entomologists in space.  Maybe I will get a chance to become an astronaut on a mission to Mars to study micro-organisms one day!  I am so thankful to 4H for helping me see how I can "make the best better!"

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