Sunday, July 8, 2018

Episode V: The Intern Strikes Back

I promised y'all photos of Johnson Space Center weeks ago, and I'm finally here to deliver.

JSC is huge, it sits on 1,620 acres of what used to be a cattle ranch. We have lots of cool wildlife on center, like giant ducks, herds of deer, baby skunks, and even long horns!

The Crew Office, has a studio across from my office where they film all sorts of different videos and a lot of time one or more of my team gets called in to help.

I asked if this is where NASA filmed the moon landing, I got a lot of blank stares. That suit is a full EVA suit, and there's a few gloves and boots floating around somewhere in that room. My office is having their own studio built right next door to this one.

Building 9 is home to the training mock ups. There are mock ups of Orion, the Boeing Starliner, a Soyuz, and most of the International Space Station modules. (SpaceX is so secretive that they won't house the mock up of their commercial crew capsule at JSC.)  Most of the mock ups are "medium fidelity" , so they're not 100% accurate and responsive. But these are what are used to train crew members before they get to fly to station.

Part of the ISS, the dark rectangles to the left are interchangeable racks that store things in the walls of the station. These mock ups are for teaching repairs on certain racks and can be taken apart and reassembled.

I got to co-pilot the space shuttle! This mock up is about to be moved out of JSC and retired to a museum.
Space shuttle space toilet!
Mock up of the ISS cupola. I learned that it is made of one piece of metal.

The very cramped interior of the Soyuz - the dimensions of the Soyuz are what dictate the height of our astronauts since its currently the only craft taking crews to space. The Orion can fit a human that is 6' 7".

The Russian Zarya module - the first element of the International Space Station to be launched into orbit. The walls and ceiling are completely carpeted because the Russians thought it would be useful to Velcro things to the surfaces but they quickly became damp and moldy.
More delightful Russian design aesthetics. That's Gordo Andrews, his job is to wine and dine VIPs and to work with production companies who want to film at JSC. He started at JSC 30ish years ago working for the legendary Gene Kranz. Gordo is the nicest guy in the world and has millions of great stories, but also believes in aliens and alien abductions. 


Kibo, the Japanese module - a much sleeker, visually appealing aesthetic than the Russian modules. That hatch is where experiments are let out into space in a floating lab that is fondly referred to as "the back porch".

The air lock where astronauts pressurize/depressurize on either end of their space walks.

I was told this is where everyone takes a photo to send back to mom. Mounted on the Zarya are the patches for every ISS mission. Currently in space are 3 Americans, 2 Russians, and 1 German who comprise Expeditions 56 and 57.

B9 also houses several rovers from different discontinued programs, as well as vehicles and suits that are used in habitat experiments in White Sands, New Mexico.
Used in White Sands, NM - crew climbs into the suit from the back while inside the vehicles then zip themselves in and reverse the process upon their return to keep any grit and debris from entering the vehicle.

Special guest appearance of Canadarm!!! The MRV can drive in all directions and its super cool to see. NASA busted the MRV out to drive in the Houston Pride parade a few weeks ago and it was amazing.

I believe this is one of the rovers that was supposed to be part of G.W. Bush's Constellation program that has since been cancelled. 

Next up was the Neutral Buoyancy Lab! This is actually located a off-Center and I was not at all prepared for how cool it is.
The first thing you see when you walk in is a huge high bay where they clean and refurbish equipment as necessary.

Gordo pointed out that the photos on the bottom are of equipment being tested in the pool and the ones on top are of the equipment actually in use.

Guys, I about died when I saw the pool. It's beautiful and huge.

The submerged equipment are exteriors of ISS modules. There are no internal bits because this is where the astronauts learn to maneuver and perform tasks that will be critical for space walks.

NBL keeps over 100 (!) divers on staff. Two divers dive with every astronaut in the pool and  while the astronaut may be in the pool for upwards of 6 hours, the divers work in 2 hour shifts. An additional diver goes into the pool to record video of the training.

Possibly second most useless life guard stand after the one in the Olympic pool.

Big cranes to move the modules in and out of the pool as necessary.

Orion!!!! This craft was used in the pool for ingress and egress testing.

Up on the left is the control room and then on the right is the debrief room. When I was there, Chris Cassidy and a cosmonaut had just finished a dive and were in the middle of debrief.

NBL also rents out some of its space and divers to oil companies so they can test their equipment, which is kind of neat. 

After my mind being thoroughly blown, Gordo took us to Mission Control. Flight Control Room 1 (FCR1) is the ISS control room and earlier that day Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold had completed a 6 hr 45 minute space walk so there were a few people milling about in the control room.

This middle panel tracks station's path and the area in which it will go dark.

The left-most screen has the live feeds from the external ISS cameras. While we were there station passed through a dawn cycle and we got to see the sun rise on the station. It's hard to convey how amazing that is to see, and it was absolutely beautiful.

The right panel has a feed from one of the internal cameras and you can see ESA astronaut Alex Gerst on screen. He'll be commander of Exp. 57 starting in October. Also, up on top, several of the smaller screen show other mission controls, including JAXA's MC at Tsukuba Space Center.

From there we peeked into FCR 2, the old shuttle control room, and FCR 3, which I think is the Orion MC or where they run sims.

Finally, we closed out the day in the Apollo control room which still smells like cigarettes and stress. It's currently being remodeled but we got to sit in the original viewing room where astronaut families would sit and we saw a chair where Queen Elizabeth once sat. 

The building originally had a pneumatic tube system for communications and we were told the guys used to steal each others' badges or sandwiches and send them throughout the building. #NERDS

Recently, a fellow intern took my friend Ronnie and I to his office in the Rapid Prototyping Lab (RPL). We got to hop into an Orion simulator where we sat in the horizontal seats looked out a porthole and watched videos of the Orion launch and landing tests so it felt like we were really in the craft. Then we got to go through some sims in a faux-cockpit and learn how the computer systems and displays work.
Let it be know that I was a much better Orion pilot than Ronnie.

That's all for now, but as a reward for making it through this massive post, here's a ridiculously cute shiba inu I met this weekend.


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