She studied the iPad on the tabletop, tapping it here and there, as the animated spacecraft dropped out of orbit and deployed an inflatable heat shield shaped like a giant mushroom cap that plowed its way through the atmosphere. A real version of the heat shield was inflated beside the table, towering over her.
The spacecraft slowed down and landed safely, but missed its target by a smidge. The animation ended with a frowny face.
Ava wasn't deterred.
"It's cool, 'cause it's science-y," said Ava, who likes science so much she says she might one day teach it. "Cause you get to do really cool things, like experiments. Test out how far things go, and how slow things go, and why."
Her father, John Paul, looked pleased. "Anything that has to do with space, and going into space, is always good," he said.
Ava and her father were among hundreds of visitors attending NASA Langley Technology Day on Tuesday at the
"Emerging technologies that will affect the future," explained
NASA Langley hosts Technology Day every few years to show the public where its investment of tax dollars is going, Belvin said, and how various
"Some have asked how many
There was keen interest in the technologies needed for space exploration, said Belvin, particularly a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s. NASA Langley is helping to develop a new entry, descent and landing system that can get heavy payloads safely onto the Red Planet.
Also under development are inflatable habitats that can house astronauts and also protect them from deadly space radiation for the nine-month journey to Mars, and a winged, pilotless Planetary Flight Vehicle that can explore the surface of other planets over vast distances, unlike wheeled rovers.
The idea, Tury said, is to use such devices in space to produce spare parts. But plastic isn't very "robust," he said, so
Other technologies were more Earth-focused, such as unmanned aerial systems, or drones, that can be used to survey crops, drop relief supplies, study the planet, track hurricanes and search and rescue, and technologies that can better study the Earth's atmosphere from aircraft or from the
Structural carbon nanocomposites can be used to build ultra-thin, lightweight, but very strong aircraft that use less fuel, said materials research scientist
"It at least prevents catastrophic failures," said Siochi. "So if you have to limp home, you can limp home."
A young girl approached Siochi's exhibit and plopped her arms down on the table. It was Ava, now with a colorful "tattoo" of Uranus on the back of her hand.
"Hi," Ava said to Siochi. "So what are we learning?"
Dietrich can be reached by phone at 757-247-7892.
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