Saturday, May 31, 2008

Summer Space Seminar - Washington, DC

The third and final leg of the Space Seminar was in Washington, DC.

Udvar-Hazy Center
The Udvar-Hazy Center is a Smithsonian Museum near Dulles Airport focused on air and space. Even though I live in DC and am an aerospace engineer, I've never been there before, because it's difficult to get to without a car. It was a very cool museum. It's basically a huge hanger full of real airplanes and model space items - like a Space Shuttle that was used for testing purposes, and full-size models of satellites and rockets. Our tour was led by Roger Launius, who is the senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum. It was a really interesting tour, and I'd highly recommend making your way out to the museum.
Space Shuttle Discovery

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard is another location that, despite living in DC and working at NASA Headquarters, I have never visited. It was interesting to see how they are organized, and what projects they work on. I was surprised at how large the facility was. We went on our final tour of a high-bay while we were at Goddard, which is ok, because now I think I have a well-rounded understanding of high-bay design and function. They also had a fun visitor center, well set-up for fun space pictures.Mariel the Astronaut.

Adam and Eric are ready for space.

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
We also visited JPL, which does a lot of work on satellites and other advanced space programs. We heard about how they were organized and saw their operations center, where two satellites were being monitored. Their campus reminded me somewhat of JPL, since it was spread out and structured more like a university.

Space Policy and Law Round Table Discussion
One of the mornings in DC, we met at GWU for a discussion on space policy, featuring a number of interesting speakers, including Dr. John Logsdon (Space Policy, GWU), Dr. Joanne Gabrynowicz (National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law), Dr. Peter Hays (National Security Space Office), and Dr. Annalisa Weigel (Astronautics, MIT). This is the area that I am currently studying, and it was interesting to hear these speakers summarize and discuss the major space policy issues.

NASA Headquarters
I've interned at NASA Headquarters twice - once in the office of Biological and Physical Research and more recently in the Space Station Office. I really enjoy working there, and was interested to see what would be covered in the presentation. We learned a lot about the Project Analysis and Evaluation Office, which I didn't know much about before. I'm very interested in economics, cost-benefit analysis, and how these concepts apply to space programs, and it seems that this office is the closest to looking at these issues. We also heard from people about space science at NASA, which was interesting and different from the work I had been involved in.

Space Policy Executive Round Table
The final event was a round table discussion with space policy officials from the executive branch. There was a representative from the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the State Department Office of Space and Advanced Technologies. This panel aligned very well with my interests - I love the idea of working with the State Department and focusing on international cooperation in the area of space. I'm now looking into getting an internship in one of these offices to learn more about what they do.

Around DC
Being from DC, I didn't feel as much of a need to do tourist things. However, since I have already sub-let my apartment (I'll be in Spain most of the summer), my friend graciously allowed me to stay at her place, and I ended up spending time in a neighborhood I'm not usually in. This allowed me to check out some new stores and restaurants, and was a fun thing to do in my last few days in the city. Also, Stephanie hosted a party on her roof on the second to last evening of the seminar. This was a really great chance to see everybody before people started heading off, and to discuss informally the experience we had over the previous week and a half.Mike, Stephanie, and I enjoying the roof.

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