NASA/Dryden tour

Date: 7/29/05

Reporter: Leah Vilkan


On Friday, July 29, 2005 the NASA SHARP students departed from the dorms of Cal State LA and headed to the Drydan Flight Center.  Upon arriving they had to go through security and then they had to get visitor badges.  Once that was taken care of the students got started with their first event of the day.  That event was a video which lasted approximately ten minutes.  The video told the students a little bit about what they do at the Drydan Flight Center, how and why it was formed, and what kinds of things they are working on.

            Some of the things which could be learned from the video include the following:  The Drydan Flight Center has been around for over fifty years.  When it was established the Drydan Flight Center was named after Hugh Drydan.  He helped put the first man on the moon.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed in 1958.  The Drydan Flight Center, which was already around, was then used to deal with the aeronautics portion of NASA.  Among many other things, the Drydan Flight Center created the X-1, which was the first airplane to be flown faster than the speed of sound.  Various other things were also briefly discussed in the video.

            After the short film was done being viewed, the tour left the coolness of the air-conditioned building and took off into the heat of the desert.  Once outside, the tour guides; Mary Ann, Bob, and Howard; showed the students around the grounds of the Drydan Flight Center.  While touring the grounds many aircraft were seen on display all around outside, and inside there were even more aircraft.  “I really liked seeing the different aircraft,” stated NASA SHARP Student, Raymundo Muñoz.  During this time, Mary Ann informed the students of many interesting facts such as how fast one mock speed is (700 miles per hour), and the fact that one of the sets of doors at the Drydan Flight Center was used as the main entrance to Major Nelson’s office in the television series “I Dream of Jeanie.”  

            Outside on the grounds of the Drydan Flight Center some of the planes than can be seen include the T-38 and the SR-71.  The T-38 is what the astronauts use to fly back and forth to the different NASA sites.  The SR-71 is better known as the “Black Bird.”  Although it is now officially the SR-71, it started out as the RS-71.  However, President Lyndon B. Johnson called it the SR-71 during a press conference.  So, in order to avoid making the president look bad, all of the papers were changed so that the name was the SR-71 instead of the RS-71.  Several other planes are also on display all over the Drydan Flight Center.

            During this tour the NASA SHARP Students were also shown some different test fixtures.  One of these was the test fixture for the sonic boom.  Following the viewing of these fixtures the students were led to the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV).  This LLRV is what taught the astronauts how to land on the moon before they actually went into space.  Also in the same area was a small model of the space shuttle which was used to film the movie “Space Camp.”  From the building where both of these things are located it is possible to see the take-off and landing strip for the planes.  Also, the space shuttle can land out there on the vast, flat piece of desert land.  After seeing all of this, the students went with Bob to the company’s cafeteria to eat before continuing on with the rest of the tour.

            While the students were eating lunch, the NASA SHARP Students from the commuter program came in to join the residential students for lunch.  All of the students introduced themselves.  This was followed by much talking as the two groups of students got to know each other and found out about each other’s program, work projects, and Joint Program Activity (JPA) projects.  The two groups got along very well and when it was time to finish up eating and leave for the next part of the tour the students exchanged contact information so they could stay in touch.  A person from each group volunteered to type up this information and e-mail it to everyone in their program.  The commuter program students stayed with the residential program students for the rest of the tour.

            The rest of the time at the Drydan Flight Center was spent learning about High Altitude Long Endurance Research.  These are some of the things that were taught during the rest of the time at the Drydan Flight Center:  These high altitude long endurance vehicles are just like really long wings.  They have electric motors and are extremely light weight so that they can do their job.  These wings are also very malleable so that the ends of the wings curve up so that the vehicle is in about the same curvature as a smile.  Two of these high altitude long endurance vehicles are the Helios and the Pathfinder Plus.  The Helios was 247 feet long and it crashed.  The Pathfinder Plus is 121 feet long.  The Pathfinder Plus was located in the room the students were in for this part of the tour.  Also in this room there were several pictures of both the Pathfinder Plus and the Helios while they were in the air. 

Something that is currently being worked on with this kind of vehicle is sensor development.  Numerous strain gages are needed on a vehicle such as these and for each strain gage it is necessary to have an input wire and an output wire.  However, if they could get it so that a single fiber optic string could be used across the vehicle instead of an input and output wire for each strain gage, that would cut down on the weight immensely because so many strain gages are needed.  This part of the tour was very well received and the students had lots of questions for the presenter when he was done sharing this information.

Following this final part of the tour the students were taken to the gift shop incase any of them wanted to buy souvenirs to remember this day and experience with.  This was also one last chance to spend time with the commuter students they had met that day and discuss all of the information that was covered during this enrichment activity.  Afterwards, the time spent at the Drydan Flight Center was over and the students packed up and departed.

In conclusion, this activity was very worthwhile and knowledge enriching.  The students got the privilege of seeing all kinds of aircraft and learning about different ideas that are being developed and worked on at the present time.  “I really learned a lot from this activity,” said Jesus Trujillo, a NASA SHARP Student.  The NASA SHARP Students also were able to see what has led up to where the Drydan Flight Center is today.  Pearl Conden, another SHARP Student, said, “I was so glad I got to see the Drydan Flight Center.”  Not only that, but another benefit of this outing was enabling the students to meet the other students from the commuter program.  “I really enjoyed meeting the commuter students,” stated NASA SHARP Student, Joel Melvin, after the trip.  So, this was a successful and valuable experience for the 2005 NASA SHARP students to partake in.




This is the group picture from the activity.


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