Monday, October 21, 2013

Soarin' Over California

I finally had some time to write a little about my experience in California...enjoy!

2013 SARP student participants
Soarin' Over California!
by Brian Blaylock
When most people think of NASA they think of astronauts on the moon, rovers on Mars, and satellites that orbit earth. Few people think of NASA as a leader in research closer to home. This summer I had the opportunity to be a part of NASA’s earth science research program by participating in the Student Airborne Research Program (SARP). SARP is a program designed to give undergraduate seniors and juniors in various scientific disciplines earth science research experience.
For two months I worked with thirty other students from thirty different schools from across the country. The first two weeks we worked in Palmdale, California at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility were we worked with the DC-8 crew. The DC-8 is one of NASA’s earth research airplanes. We learned about airborne research from NASA scientists and were involved with integrating various instruments on the plane.
Me in front of the DC-8 before our first flight.
The students were divided into four different research groups: land, ocean, whole-air-samples, and air quality. I was in the air quality group and worked on the ozone, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide sensors. To make measurements of these trace gasses from the plane we essentially stuck a tube out the window and sucked the air inside to the instruments. In five flights we flew approximately 4,600 miles over the Central Valley, the Santa Barbara Channel, and Los Angeles basin.
The remaining six weeks we lived at the University of California in Irvine. Aside from going to the beach every weekend, we were busy every day working on individual research projects. Most of us used data we collected on our science flights on the DC-8. My project, instead, focused on weather influences on ozone air quality in Los Angeles over the past five years.

Matt and me watching the ozone monitor on the third flight.
The Student Airborne Research Program gave me an opportunity to use knowledge and skills I’ve developed in my undergraduate studies. It also cultured an atmosphere for learning that cannot be taught in a classroom and gave me valuable research experience. Airborne research is one of my new found passions. I don’t think that was my last time flying on the DC-8!






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