"LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE" P R O J E CT U P D A T E # 23 PART 1: Hiccup in updates-lfs schedule PART 2: Star census reports needed PART 3: Creative engineering: inspiration from suspenders _______________________________________________________________________ Last week was not a good one for these updates. The Tuesday message was non-existent and the Friday message was delayed until Monday (this one). My sincere apologies. I expect that we will resume this week with our normal twice per week updates-lfs message. _______________________________________________________________________ We have only received a handful of Star Census reports in which classes analyze their data and share their conclusions about the reasons for differing star counts. Thanks to those teachers and students for providing their work. This will be placed online shortly. For this rest of you, please consider joining us. Complete directions are available online. The quick overview of this activity is included here: We hope that teachers will work with their students to prepare reports from their observations which better reflect the complexities of the star-counting task. For example, how do the following factors effect the numbers: - weather - proximity to surface lighting - time of night that the observations were made - size of the moon (if you take make observations over time) - etc, etc Hopefully the class can together produce a report that includes the original data and the conclusions that were derived from analyzing this data. We would like to place these reports on the Internet for other classes to see and learn from. As an additional activity, classes can examine the other reports and 1) get ideas for improving their original report 2) derive new meaning as more data from other locations becomes available (for example, students may learn that students in the mountains see more stars then those closer to sea level). We encourage classes to produce a final report that synthesizes the information from other reports into a final summary. These reports will also be shared online. The format of these reports is up to the individual teachers. Graphs and other visuals would make reports more attractive to others, if your class can find something meaningful to graph. Charts of the real data collected might be interesting to some. Be as creative as you can, since your audience will be other engaged classrooms across the county and the world. For those of you who are Web publishers, please feel free to develop your information on the Web. Send these reports electronically if possible to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not able to send formatted reports online, then please mail disks to Marc Siegel, NASA Ames Research Center, Mailstop T-28H, Moffett Field, CA 94035. (Any disks sent will be returned). If sending the reports on disk is a problem, then send in a paper version and we will scan it in. When preparing reports, please include enough information so that others can use your conclusions in their work. Examples of this type of information include location, altitude, description of surroundings (bright city, dark rural area, in-between suburbs), moon phase, etc. _______________________________________________________________________ A STORY OF INGENUITY ON THE KAO By Heidi Wall, Crittenden Middle School, Mt. View, CA derived from an interview with Jim Cockrell When you're working with the government, every penny counts. When NASA is on location in the southern hemisphere, every second equals lost cash. Jim Cockrell, an electrical engineer, was on his three week shift in New Zealand with the KAO. The KAO, for those of you who don't know, is a stratosphere-coasting plane equipped with loads of telescopic equipment. The NASA team was getting a lot of pressure from the top to make the most of their observing time. After three weeks the replacement engineer would come to relieve Jim of his duties. Deciding to seize the opportunity for a vacation, Jim went on a four day bicycle tour of New Zealand. (So perhaps some engineers are slightly eccentric.) When he was ready for American soil again, he swung by the hotel to pick up his suitcase. Little did he know that the mission director and his thugs were waiting for him! "Stop, don't let that man get away!" Even though his shift was over, the plane had had a major telescope catastrophe, and he was needed. Thus far, two flights had been missed, and that was money blowing away into the wind. Jim sat down and analyzed his problem: The telescope on the KAO has three motors. One is for elevation, or moving the telescope up and down. The second is called azimuth, and it moves the telescope side to side. The third motor rotates the telescope. A transistor for the azimuth engine got too hot and burned up, setting off a chain reaction that took out all the other transistors as well. Not a big deal, right? Now, the thing you must realize is that each of these motors is unique, hand made in 1974 out of special parts which probably aren't even available any more. And each one is different than the last. Jim's replacement had developed a set of replacement transistors, but they just burned up again. Ditto with the second set; fried in flight. Each trial-and-error cost the mission two days. Well, we could try again, Jim thought, and if it works, great, but if it doesn't then we're back to where we started. What if we try something different? O.K., the up and down focus is critical, as well as side to side. If you're not pointed at what you want to look at, all is lost. Compared with the other two, the rotational motor is almost trivial. Think of it like holding a mirror in front of your face. If you rotate it, you can still see your face. They decided to try cutting out the third motor, and it worked. That is, it didn't burn up. The only problem was that the telescope kind of swiveled around loose. When it bumped against the end of its track, the picture jarred, marring about a third of the data. NASA was none too pleased with the way the mission was turning out. Jim was discussing the problem with one of the telescope operators. He was wearing suspenders. Hmm, that's a concept, how about suspenders for the telescope? Jim proposed his idea. Amidst snickers and guffaws, permission for the suspenders was granted. The multi-million dollar telescope was outfitted with bungee cords from the local general store. The next day the KAO scored one hundred on its flight. The NASA crew still looks back on that incident and laughs. Jim Cockrell saved the mission, and the transistor never did get fixed!