Today was training day! I was confident after learning more about Ham the NASA Chimp yesterday. I figured if a chimpanzee could qualify for space flight, certainly I could.
We arrived at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center and had to go through a security check since it is a military facility. We watched a short video on the facility and the regulations we were expected to follow. They then gave us our badges (which I’m not allowed to post photos of) and we were escorted into the hangar facility. That is where we got the first look at the SOFIA plane!
We were briefed on what we could photograph in the hangar and what we were specifically not allowed to photograph. Apparently, NASA and our military are doing some confidential research with certain aircraft. There were 5 aircraft in the hangar used for various types of airborne astronomy, SOFIA being the largest by far.
The different components of SOFIA were explained to us and how it is different from commercial aircraft. The project team was explained to us and how many people were involved in a flight mission. It is amazing the amount of coordination that must happen to ensure our mission is successful from a research perspective.
After that, we were taken to the Egress training room to learn all the safety procedures in case there’s an emergency. Oxygen is apparently hard to come by in space, so we need access to oxygen quickly.I laughed when I saw one of the oxygen masks had two settings….normal and emergency. If I’m putting on that mask, trust me, it’s an emergency! We also had to learn how to exit the aircraft, signal for help, and all the other fun stuff you don’t want to think about. Fortunately, there will be two safety specialists on board the plane, so I’m just going to stay close to those guys.
After that part of the training, a NASA scientist approached me specifically and introduced himself. This was odd because as me met people, they usually wanted to meet each educator (there are 4 of us). This guy just wanted to talk to me and already knew my name. It turns out, he was forwarded the Indy Star article about use from one of his college professors. Coincidentally, his brother lived 3 blocks from my school!
We were then taken onto the aircraft for the first time and showed where all the safety equipment was and also instructed about the on-flight procedures we must follow. Then, we were allowed to walk around the aircraft and take photos. We were given very specific instructions to not touch anything. Don’t worry, sir. I want the aircraft to stay in the air as much as you do.
We are now getting some rest time before we have a dinner meeting with some of the flight team we will be flying with tomorrow. You can follow the flight on Flightaware and search for the tail number “NASA747”. It is becoming very real that this is happening!