My super amazing girlfriend is, as I like to mention here, super amazing. One facet of her super amazingness is that when you read this (admittedly you are likely her, hi hon!) she will be working for NASA!!!! This is super cool, and is a reflection and not a cause of her super coolness. But seeing as when I am writing this she is not yet working for NASA, we decided to see if we couldn’t learn a thing or two about the coolest space agency and so we went to Goddard Space Flight Center to check it out!
The visitor’s center for Goddard is small but mighty, much like the rockets they have on display in the backyard. I had been to Goddard once before, when I was but a wee little lad in the Boy Scouts but didn’t remember much of it. Admission is free and when you go in it is almost entirely in one large room full of space stuff:
In addition to the one large room there is a “solarium” which is playing videos of the sun’s surface, and another movie theater which is playing videos that are about space and stuff. I assume they are somewhere in Goddard’s surprisingly impressive YouTube channel.
The special treat the day we visited is that they were doing rocket launches. Unfortunately the Delta rocket they have in the backyard stayed put (it could use a coat of paint), but what they launched were a bunch of model rockets. This was the first time they had done it since the pandemic, but it turns out the first Sunday of every month you can bring your model rocket and they’ll launch it off for you which is an extremely fun way to do model rocketry and have a nice day at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Only a few of the rockets wound up in the trees. Here is a gif of the first launch for your pleasure:
I have failed to find a way to fit this in narratively but I wanted to say that my clearest memory of my childhood visit to Goddard was the story told by the guy (one of the fellow Scouts’ dad) who brought us there. He worked at Goddard (hence the visit) and he was telling us that some of his fellow satellite designers were trying to figure out how to design a fluid ring, which is a uh ring of um fluid that somehow helps satellites stay stable when they’re up there is space. They used to be used all the time on satellites but NASA had gone away from them in favor of more advanced technology or something (look I was a little kid and I don’t work at NASA unlike my super amazing girlfriend the details are sketchy). But they were going back to them due to budget cuts or something, but everyone had forgotten how to design them. But this dude (the dad) mentioned to them that one of the satellites hanging in the visitor’s center had one, so they marched on down there to check it out and it saved the day or something like that. Anyways this is a good excuse to always keep old junk around.
Of all the objects at the visitor’s center I think the one I was most fascinated with was the above piece of equipment, which fitted over a component of the Hubble Space Telescope they needed to repair or replace and was used to capture screws. I dunno, just like, kinda neat, and also it is a perfect piece of NASA engineering, for better or for worse. Also excellent colors! Some really great craftsmanship went into that piece and all to capture screws. I was impressed.
Besides that the other thing I think I learned the most about was probably the James Webb telescope. They spent a few decades building it right there at Goddard and so they were fairly proud of it. I hadn’t actually quite realized what it looked like until I saw a scale model, nor realized how far away from Earth and the moon it was really orbiting. They also had full-sized mirror mockups and the dang thing is just extremely impressive and I am excited to see the images it produces. I think by the time this is published those photos will have been published which will be cool.
And then finally our trip concluded with a visit to the gift shop, where they had a surprising amount of cat-themed souvenirs and a bunch of other cool NASA stuff. I noted the other day to my super amazing girlfriend that just given the relative volume of Space with everything that is Not Space, most museums should in fact be Space Museums and this visit solidified that sentiment for both of us. Going to Goddard doesn’t really take very long but it is an excellent visitor’s center and it was a hoot checking out space stuff with my super amazing girlfriend. I am very excited to see all the cool stuff my super amazing girlfriend learns actually working for them. Gonna be a blast!