NASA Ames open house will be first in 17 years; free tickets available
MOFFETT FIELD — The NASA Ames Research Center will host its first open house in 17 years next month, giving the public a rare opportunity to see its wind tunnels and “simulated Martian landscape.”
Center operations director Chuck Duff said the open house, which celebrates the center’s 75th anniversary, is an opportunity to share its diverse research projects and missions with the public.
“You can get a really unique aspect into NASA by coming to Ames,” he said. “It’s really quite an amazing place for the wide variety, from aeronautics to space technology.”
Tickets are free for the Oct. 18 event. There are two types of tickets, a general admission ticket that every visitor will need and a backstage pass that will admit them to special labs.
Vertical Motion Simulator at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, Calif., on August 20, 2010.
Vertical Motion Simulator at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, Calif., on August 20, 2010. (LiPo Ching/Staff file photo)
The general admission tickets include a two-mile self-guided tour of the grounds, exhibits featuring Ames’ space missions, demonstrations of technologies invented at the research center, and the opportunity to meet with Ames scientists and engineers.The backstage passes will admit visitors to one of about 10 specialized labs such as the “20G Centrifuge” and the “Vertical Motion Simulator.” The center, with 2,500 employees and contractors at the Moffett Field site, developed and leads the efforts on the Mars Curiosity Rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument or “CheMin,” which tests for life-supporting organic compounds and evidence of water on Mars.
NASA Ames also leads the mission operations for the Kepler mission, which searches for planets with habitable environments. In April, the Kepler mission discovered an Earth-sized planet in the “habitable zone” of a star 500 light-years from Earth, the first evidence of another possible life-supporting planet.
At the open house, the center will hand out information about these projects and showcase technologies being researched at the center — such as drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles and systems (UAVS), and “NanoSats,” and “CubeSats,” tiny satellites, as small as 10 centimeters cubed and weighing 3 pounds, which do low-cost space research.
“PhoneSats” are satellites made out of smart phones, and they have successfully taken pictures of the earth from space.
“Technologies are much better, they’re smaller, they’re lighter,” Duff said. “We’re using telephones as avionics…we’re using the technology that our creative country has produced and we’re putting it to work in space and achieving results a lot faster.”
The center will also display components manufactured by Ames’ “SpaceShop,” which uses 3D printing and other digital methods to quickly model shuttle parts. The goal is to be able to do this quickly in space to fix shuttles.
“If you are en route to Mars for example and a part breaks,” Duff said. “We could, on the ground, send the 3D printing results up to the vehicle in flight,” and have it print the parts there.
The Ames Research Center was founded in 1939 as part of the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics (now NASA), focusing on the construction of wind tunnels for aerodynamics research. The center’s 80-by-120-foot wind tunnel is the largest in the world.
The center is involved in several other missions, such as the International Space Station, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) orbiter, and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) research aircraft.
NASA Ames open house
When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct, 18Tickets: Free general admissions tickets: Available now at https://nasaamesopenhouse.eventbrite.com/. They provide access to the grounds, a walking tour which goes around the wind tunnels and a simulated Martian landscape, and the opportunity to chat with Ames scientists and engineers at booths. Visitors can choose what time to be admitted to the center, on the hour, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m..
Free backstage passes provide access to specialized labs. Available at noon each Thursday. Check http://www.nasa.gov/ames/openhouse2014/#backstage for information on which tickets will be available each Thursday and http://amesbackstage.eventbrite.com to register.
Parking: None at the center. Shuttle buses to the event will run from the VTA Lightrail BayShore/NASA Station and VTA/CalTrain Mountain View Transit Station.