I’ve been very lax on the updates recently (‘recently’ meaning… the last 7 months, apparently) but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few highlights from the tail end of 2019.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 – here at Purdue, the alma mater of Neil Armstrong, this was a big event. The week surrounding July 20th was filled with lectures, panel discussions, and a variety of fascinating events culminating in a flyover of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering by an F-100 (a plane Armstrong flew as a test pilot). Seeing how many people showed up to Purdue to commemorate this incredible anniversary was a truly humbling experience and I was glad to be a part of it.
Meeting (another) childhood hero – as part of the 50th anniversary festivities, legendary NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz visited Purdue to give an insider’s take on Apollo 11 from his memories of being on-console at the Mission Control Center in Houston. I was lucky enough to introduce Mr. Kranz, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity I had to talk with him backstage and hear his opinions and his perspectives on engineering, spaceflight, leadership, and life in general. I commissioned a friend of mine to sew a replica of his famous “White Flight” vest, which Mr. Kranz kindly autographed for me (!) – a one-of-a-kind memento of an incredible opportunity!
Launching a student payload to the edge of space(ish) – I ran a program to introduce curious high-schoolers to engineering through a rigorous, hands-on design project. Specifically, I helped ten students from three different Lafayette-area high schools design, build, and launch a high-altitude balloon payload. The students did a great job, putting together their payload (which they named “Sandwich Steve” for reasons which still escape me) in just a few short weeks and launching it to an estimated altitude of approximately 100,000 feet. The payload was recovered by an unaffiliated bystander in Romney, IN after a flight of approximately two and a half hours. I will endeavour to write more about this when I’ve finished compiling my final report on the project.
Becoming a commercial pilot – I passed my checkride to become a commercial pilot in July. Since I don’t intend to pursue flying as a primary career, this is a slightly arbitrary distinction, but it’s satisfying to earn a new license requiring greater skills than my private pilot certificate. Over the summer, I also did some glider towing for the Illini Glider Club in Danville, IL.
Working at NASA – I spent a few short weeks working at NASA Glenn, catching up with old colleagues and giving a briefing about my Ph.D. research.
Personal travel – I spent about a week traveling in Mexico, both by myself and with friends. It was an incredible trip – I loved the parts of Mexican culture which I was able to experience, and I found the places I visited (Mexico City, Guadalajara, and the Jalisco coast) to be beautiful, lively, and delightful. I also went on a cross-country road trip from Indiana to L.A., seeing some of this country’s beautiful scenery along the way, and went to a wedding in the D.C. area.
These are some of the moments which stand out in a year of many different adventures. So far, 2020 is off to a good start; I hope that if nothing else, I do a better job of keeping the website updated!