We Are the Society 4 S.P.A.C.E.

Dear Space Lovers,

We are Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s (ERAU) Society 4 Space Privatization and Commercial Exploration, or Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. for short. Founded in the fall of 2007, the Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. has become ERAU’s space organization! With over 75 active members, we grow and learn each and every semester. The Society 4 S.P.A.C.E’s mission focuses on a few things: conducting research, hosting events, and raising awareness. Our main goal is to educate the minds of today on tomorrow’s challenges.

We are heavily involved on a community as well as a national level. Whether it is hosting events on campus or attending conferences, we strive to raise awareness in any way possible. Some of the past events we have hosted on campus include “Women in Zero G,” “Yuri’s Night,” and “Give Me Space.” Some of the conferences that we attend each year include the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference, Creative Arts and Sciences (CASE) Conference, and the Aviation, Aeronautics, and Aerospace International Research (A³iR) Conference at our sister school in Prescott, Arizona.

For “Women in Zero G,” we honored the first American woman in space, the one and only Sally Ride. At the event, we informed participants of what Society 4 S.P.A.C.E.’s mission is as well as ongoing research, which was followed by the movie “Gravity”. We also had a member of ERAU’s board of trustees and former NASA Astronaut, Nicole Stott who was scheduled to Skype in during the event, but due to an event at NASA she was unable to be present. “Yuri’s Night” is something we have done every year in the spring semester. The event celebrated Yuri Gargarin’s flight into space. Being the first cosmonaut and first man in space, it is a ‘must-celebrate’ event. During this event we had three main guest speakers: Edward Mango, former program manager for the Commercial Crew Program (CCP); Mr. Ronald Caswell, former docent at NASA’s KSC; and Dr. Sergey V. Drakunov, Assistant Dean of Research at ERAU. At the “Give Me Space” event, our main goal was to promote space and promote the Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. We watched the movie October Sky and entertained our participants with the fascinating topic of space.

SpaceLOGOWe hope to attend and host several more events and conferences this year as well as hosting “Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. presents The Martian.” Through event planning and persistence, we are striving once again for greatness.

As stated before, we are heavily invested in research. Currently, we have three research projects being worked on. The first is our Atmospheric Weather Balloon for Near Space Research. The Atmospheric Weather Balloon for Near Space Research, is a small cube that will be tethered to an eight foot diameter helium balloon capable of holding 365 cubic feet of helium. This massive balloon will be able to carry our cube up to 100,000-120,000 feet. Once the balloon bursts, the cube will freefall back to Earth with the parachute deployment system to land the cube safely back on the Earth’s surface. Inside the cube are multiple sensors that will record key data as it ascends and descends through the different layers of Earth’s atmosphere. We will be able to recover the cube via GPS once the cube lands. Since we will not know the landing location exactly, we created a MATLAB simulation that allows us to generalize the possible landing site. The Atmospheric Weather Balloon for Near Space Research is complete and we are now waiting on a launch date.

The second research project is the Autonomous Satellite Recovery Vehicle or ASVR. The ASVR is a machine styled after a quad-copter that was designed with folding arms. The folding design is key because it allows it to fit inside a rocket. For this feature, we teamed up with the rocket club here on campus (IRFSEDS). With their help, they assured us it was possible to fit the ASVR inside a rocket. Attached to the ASRV are numerous sensors that acquire data such as temperature, humidity, pressure, wind direction, and many other functions of the atmosphere. Once the rocket hits apogee, the ASRV will be ejected and begin free falling. As it free falls, all the necessary data will be collected until the ASRV hits the altitude of 1,000 feet. Once it does this, the parachute will be released slowing the ASRV’s velocity speed to a suitable range where the engines can ignite. Once the engines do so, the ASRV will fly, autonomously, to the prerecorded GPS waypoint, which the pilot chooses before launch. Once the Atmospheric Weather Balloon for Near Space Research was launched and instrumentation was proven to collect and transmit the data, the idea was to install the instrumentation into the ASRV, which would allow the ASRV to collect the data and fly back to us instead of looking for the landing site of the cube.

Our third project is our newest project. It is a collaboration between ERAU and NASA. Dr. Sergey V. Drakunov, Assistant Dean of Research at ERAU, contacted Francisco Pastrana, President for Society 4 S.P.A.C.E., and proposed the idea of building and testing a new propulsion system for an autonomous drone created by NASA. The Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. will be helping him develop the propulsion system as well as testing it. Possible propulsion systems we have looked at include: a steam engine for water vapor propulsion in worlds like Europa, Jupiter’s moon and a cold gas propulsion system using local resources like CO2, which is available in Mars atmosphere. Solar energy can be used to suppress this gas as well as fuel the tanks for long duration exploration. The basic idea of Mars exploration is to map the lava tunnels that NASA could use to build a city under the surface protecting it from harmful cosmic radiation. We look forward to working with NASA on this project.

The Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. thrives off of encouragement and the passion to learn. Whether it is building a hotel in space, or sending the first person to Mars, the Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. will pave the road for space privatization and commercial exploration.

If you are a space lover, join the Society 4 S.P.A.C.E. today!


Preparing astronauts for space is no easy task. With thousands of hours of training and little rest for the busy, NASA makes sure that astronauts are fully prepared in each and every way possible. One way NASA trains astronauts* is through the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations, or NEEMO. The NASA NEEMO missions are based in Key Largo, FL. 6.2 miles (5.4 nautical miles) out and 62 feet (19 meters) deep stands Aquarius. The world’s ONLY underwater laboratory in existence.

Astronauts will call Aquarius their home anywhere from one to two weeks. Once inside, the astronauts – now referred to as aquanauts – will conduct science experiments, research, testing, and even some extravehicular activities, or EVAs. The closest simulation to actual microgravity is being underwater. Conducting EVAs underwater allows rookie astronauts to somewhat experience the feeling of weightlessness without actually being weightless. That’s why the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, or NBL, comes in handy. EVAs conducted during the NASA NEEMO missions test out new equipment, team work, and even EVAs that might be conducted on Mars.

The commander of the NEEMO 20 mission is ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano. Parmitano is a veteran spaceflyer spending a total of 166 days living and working on board the International Space Station (ISS) during Expedition 36 and 37. Parmitano is no rookie when it comes to EVAs. He conducted two during his visit to the space station. Parmitano will be joined by NASA astronaut Serena Aunon, NASA EVA Management Office engineer David Coan, and JAXA astronaut Norishige “Nemo” Kanai.

This mission in particular will focus on “evaluating tools and techniques being tested for future spacewalks on a variety of surfaces and gravity levels ranging from asteroids to the moons of Mars and the Martian surface.” 1The mission will also “test time delays in communications due to the distance of potential mission destinations. The crew also will assess hardware sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) that allows crew members to read the next step in a procedure without taking their hands or eyes away from the task using a tablet, a smartphone and a head-mounted interface.” 2

Going into an extreme environment is no easy task and safety is key. Precautions are always taken and certified divers are always around just in case of an emergency, but the astronauts are well trained. Training for a NASA NEEMO mission starts about a month in advance, but the actual heavy duty training begins one week before splashdown. As I mentioned before, mission length varies but for the NEEMO 20 mission, it will last 2 weeks.

I was lucky enough to take part in the NASA NEEMO 20 mission. Embry-Riddle students and faculty were invited to be a part of the Mission Support Team. (Clearly an offer I could NOT turn down) I went down to Key Largo, FL Monday July 13th, 2015 through Wednesday July 15th, 2015. On Tuesday July 14th, 2015 I spent the whole day at the FIU Aquarius Reef Base. I met the NEEMO 20 crew along with the mission director Marc Reagan, and members of the mission support team: Barbara Janoiko, Jason Poffenberger, NEEMO 19 aquanaut Herve Stevenin, and a lot more! I also got the chance to meet the developer of NEEMO and NEEMO 1 aquanaut, Bill Todd, once again. I helped with the training of the astronauts as well as being an extra hand on base.

The NASA NEEMO missions are another way that NASA prepares astronauts and mission support teams for future space exploration missions. The outreach of the astronauts and everyone involved is absolutely incredible.

To Luca Parmitano: enjoy your vampire slaying tool 😉

Special thanks to…

  • Nye & Robert Schwartz for their continued love and support.
  • Jason Kring & Bill Todd for the opportunity to take part in the NASA NEEMO 20 mission.
  • Kati Anglin for guiding me through the process and teaching me new things.
  • The NEEMO 20 crew for taking the time to talk to everyone including myself
  • The NEEMO 20 crew for answering all my questions, especially Luca.
  • The NEEMO 20 mission support team.

*Not every astronaut participates in these missions and some astronauts who do are already space veterans.

For more information on the NASA NEEMO program, visit:


Finding ERAU, World Suicide Prevention Day and 9/11

The Question of College: How I Found ERAU
High school students, usually seniors, are constantly being hounded with the question of going to college. Parents get worried and students get frustrated. What to do, what to do, what to do. I can tell you from experience that I was in the same boat not too long ago. Here is where it started. Ever since I was four years old, I wanted to be a famous singer/actress/dancer. I ate, slept, and dreamt about being on stage in front of thousands of people performing my heart out. I had my first musical production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” when I was in fifth grade. That followed with a myriad of productions all throughout middle school and high school. Some of which included: “A Christmas Story,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” In high school I took part in Senior Thespians and was in an elite group of singers that performed all around Broward County. Being swept up in the luxury of “fame,” I was never focused on getting an education and I never really enjoyed going to school – especially high school. This was until spring break 2013.
My family and I were heading to St. Augustine when my dad mentioned going to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC). The next thing I know, we were at the gates of KSC. The word “EXPLORE” in big blue letters was sitting on top of the entrance gate and seven rockets sat behind it. The moment I walked through that gate and saw those rockets I knew I had to do that. Now let me clarify, I didn’t know what “that” was at that moment. We spent the whole day at KSC meeting the people that worked there as well as an astronaut. By the end of the day, I was walking out of KSC in a blue NASA astronaut flight suit. That is what I wanted to do: I wanted to become an astronaut.
Two and a half years later I come to find myself at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach studying Human Factors & Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Biomechanical Engineering as a double degree, an officer and/or member of multiple clubs/organizations, involved on several projects, and working towards my ultimate dream of becoming an astronaut. On top of all that, I have managed my own website and social media sites interacting with people from all around the world sharing our love for space and knowledge.
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My Dad and me at NASA 2013
So what is college to you? Building the next rocket to go to space? Creating a booming business that you will one day become the CEO of? Becoming the next Neil Armstrong or Sally Ride? Whatever it may be, a STEM degree, business degree, or anything else, you will find what you are looking for as long as you have a passion and drive behind it. That is how I found myself, my career, and ERAU. You can do the same.

World Suicide Prevention Day
Yesterday, September 10th, was World Suicide Prevention Day. Students, faculty and staff had the chance to write messages on colored flags that were put in the (the lawn in front of the Student Center). “Hope” and “love yourself” were just some of the words written by students and faculty at ERAU. With something as little as messages on colored flags, it speaks volumes.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1 (800) 273-8255 – www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
every eagle
Forever Remember 9/11. 14 years later we remember what happened on that tragic day back in 2001. Innocent lives were lost, and hearts were broken. We will forever remember their bravery and sacrifice. We will forever remember each one of the lives lost on that tragic day. They will never be forgotten. Together we stand as one. Never forget.

Music and Rockets: The Unlikely Encounters of the Third Kind

With the end of the semester nearly 2 weeks away, things are really starting to pick up across campus. From the events and activities on campus to my classes and projects that need to get done, there’s so much to do and so little time.

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Let’s start with the Touch ‘N’ Go Big Show. Every year (or is it bi-annually?) Embry-Riddle’s entertainment board, Touch-N-Go, has a concert on campus and this year they managed to book the Plain White T’s and Smash Mouth. While I never really had the opportunity to listen to their music as a kid growing up, I definitely knew who they were and was really excited when I found out they were coming to Riddle. Because I volunteered to cover the event for The Avion, I got the opportunity to meet both bands and interview them along with two of my friends from the newspaper. With heavy rain storms predicted, Mother Nature did not disappoint. But, despite the hour-long delay and heavy rain, the concert was absolutely amazing, until the generators that ran all of the equipment on stage started cutting out during the Plain White T’s’ performance. After the massive fireworks display and the bassist playing “The Star Spangled Banner,” with vocals provided by the crowd, the night came to an end and the show was over.

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Flash forward two days later and I found myself biking to the Student Center (UC) at 6AM Monday morning to cover SpaceX’s rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. This was my first rocket launch ever so to say that I was excited would be an understatement. Again, thanks to the power of college journalism, I was lucky enough to get media credentials through The Avion. Thanks to the media credentials I received, I got to actually go to the launch pad and saw the Falcon 9! It was truly awe-inspiring to actually be at the Kennedy Space Center because it’s like you’re standing in a time-capsule: everything looks like it did back in the 1960s! Even the buses we rode on were the old iconic flat-faced white buses that were common during the 60s. Unfortunately the launch was scrubbed T-minus 3 minutes until launch which meant I had to come back the next day. After emailing my teachers and getting their approvals, I was good to go. All in all, after seeing the rocket launch and meeting all of the people I met, including a student from Embry-Riddle’s Prescott campus, it made me realize how lucky I was.

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So, year 1 of college complete. I probably look like an idiot sitting in the library looking bewildered but wow. I can’t believe 7 months of college flew by that quickly. I’m really excited for Fall 2015 and what else is in store for me at Riddle. Unless I’m told to put out another update before I leave on the 30th, enjoy the summer, do adventurous things, and remember to be curious.

My first 5 day week in 3 weeks

I FINALLY FINISHED A PROJECT!!!! Monday I felt incredible. I was productive and finally saw an endpoint to something I had been working on for weeks. That is a great feeling. So, as a result I was trying to finish up many projects. Some people are good at multi-tasking. This person is not. Amongst the many projects I have needed to complete, I have also needed to start finishing things up for the end of my internship. Not to mention I have a big move coming up that will take me across the country. So things are starting to close out for this internship, and they seem to be coming together at the same time. Next week I have a final paper do explaining everything I have done for my internship. Oh my God! I just wrote do instead of due. What is happening to me? Didn’t I tell you to not to multi-task?


On top of the many things coming together at once, my boss also came back this week. Most people would see this as a stressful, terrifying situation, but this is not the case. My boss is way cooler than the average boss, mostly because she is not the average boss. She is older, but her sense of humor is much greater than mine. Aside from her being a amazing person, I feel as though she is not giving me the experience I was expecting out of an internship. When I would hear about the experiences of students as an intern it was mostly that they were told to fetch coffee and not given the time of day from their advisor. My boss not only knows how to make her own cup of coffee, but she sets aside time everyday to talk to me. And if there is a time that she is away, she makes it a priority to set me up with things to do and responds to any questions that I have. As a branch head in the government, that is rare! So I wanted to make sure that the stereotype of internships changes. It’s not always what people make it out to be, whether in a good way or in a bad way. You can set out expectations, but you will certainly be surprised.


At the end of my internship I am supposed to present a poster to the commanding officers where I work. This will be a big deal! So, for my presentation, I am showcasing the projects going on at my branch. This works well because during my time here I have helped in some shape or form on a lot of the projects. If I am presenting on each of these projects I need to become an expert in what I will be talking about. So, I went to each person and asked about the details of the projects they are leading. I also gave them all a questionnaire for another project I am doing. So it looks like there is data analysis in my future! Please try to contain your excitement.


My roommate had a few friends come over at the end of the week. I am rarely a host and after doing it this weekend, I am pretty sure I don’t want to do it again. The reason being the fact that I am lazy and I would rather someone else clean up after me than vice versa. Oh that sounds bad, doesn’t it? Well I know you’re thinking the exact same thing. It was a good thing I didn’t have to be around the house much the next day.


Saturday morning we all went to the beach. Sharelle and I, as well as her co-workers played football, tossed around a volleyball, and congregated around the Pacific. We looked at the ocean, but barely went in. The beaches are covered in giant seaweed and the water I think the water is infested with ice cubes. It was FREEZING! I could barely go past my knees. Ditching the ocean was a good decision. Because what came next was a giant burrito. It was about the size of a newborn baby and filled with eggs, cheese, and bacon. I bet I know what you’re making for breakfast tomorrow. Of course this was enough to satisfy me for about, oh I don’t know.. 15 minutes. Sharelle and I walked to a store down the street to get ice cream sandwiches. You could create it yourself! Why don’t they have these stores in Florida?! They should be as common as a Starbucks.

Trying not to touch the water

Trying not to touch the water

Playing football

Playing football

Burrito baby

Burrito baby

Cookies and cream cookies surrounding cookies and cream ice cream.. did I mention cookies and cream?

Cookies and cream cookies surrounding cookies and cream ice cream.. did I mention cookies and cream?

I was dead asleep within an hour after that feast. Which I needed for the next day. It started out as a roommate date day. I went with my two roommates to a diner at the closest beach. Which is the first one I have been to in months. California doesn’t have the number of diners that Florida has. In fact, I don’t think anywhere has the same density of diners we have in the Sunshine State. Then we grabbed my roommates brother and friend and headed off to the San Diego Pride festival. There was a parade just a day before, but I was too busy eating to see it. It was the most colorful event I have been to while in San Diego, or probably ever. There were tents for food, support, information, local attractions, and many others. I paid $20 to get in, but probably made double that in the amount of free items I got from tent vendors.

The many, many, food tents

The many, many, food tents

At the Pride fair

At the Pride fair


The most exciting part was seeing a tent for NASA! I touched a moon rock that was over 3.5 billion years old. I also got to try on gloves and a helmet and see the food they eat in space. The best part was that this was held on the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon! I had my picture taken in a EVA spacesuit model. Later on, as we were walking around a notification came up from a former student of one of the classes I was a teaching assistant for. It said “Carolyn, you’re featured here!” I figured it was something from my department at ERAU. But I was so excited when I saw what it really was. The International Space Station Facebook page had shared the picture of me in the astronaut suit! It was incredible that a friend of mine all the way in Daytona saw a picture and noticed it was me before I even looked at anything. Yay! I feel like a real astronaut now. It’s funny because I never had an interest in space until I met my advisor, Dr. Kring. His classes got me very excited in everything from moon to Mars, and now I am addicted. I have definitely become a space geek since coming to Embry-Riddle.

Touching old rocks

Touching old rocks

Astro food

Astro food

Shared by the ISS!

Shared by the ISS!

Hunting Aliens in California

Greetings, Earthlings!

First off, I apologize for being so tardy on this entry. I’ll try to be more timely for the rest of the summer. Anyways…

10460212_10152259266303719_86456628812285147_nI am writing to you from sunny Mountain View, California, home of the SETI Institute! For those of you who aren’t familiar, SETI is the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, a.k.a. professional alien hunters. You may think that that sounds like science fiction, but they are a legitimate research institution doing real science, which covers topics including geology, astronomy, biology, and everything in between. And it’s the coolest place ever! Mountain View is basically paradise on Earth – sunny every day (we were told not to expect rain all summer), temperatures in the low-60s in the morning when I leave for work with daily highs in the mid-70s, and NO FLORIDA HUMIDITY.

California is a neat place, with a lot of differences that I’m still getting used to. One of the first things I learned about the Bay Area is that grocery bags cost money – you have to bring your reusable bags or specifically ask to buy paper bags. I was very confused on my first grocery run when the cashier just piled my $60 worth of groceries at the end of the counter and then asked me if I needed a bag. I certainly wasn’t going to carry them all in my arms!

Riding the CalTrain up to San Francisco!

Riding the CalTrain up to San Francisco!

The thing I like most about this area is just the environment and culture. You walk through downtown Mountain View, and it’s all family-owned restaurants (lots of different ethnic cuisines), used book shops, bike stores, and small cafes with people sitting outside on their laptops. It’s gorgeous and feels totally safe and welcoming. Plus being in Silicon Valley, I get to drive past places like Microsoft, Google, etc., which is way cool. Not only that, but there are like four or five performing arts centers in the area – hate to bash Daytona, but it is certainly lacking in that regard! Another great thing is that you can get anywhere via public transit – which is certainly comforting, considering my car is currently parked 3,000 miles away. I’d never ridden a train before, so it was a new adventure for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s also very bike friendly here; I bike to and from work every day: 2.5 miles each way. And the weather’s perfect for it – especially first thing in the morning. In California, bikes are considered cars, so I bike on the roads, stop at stop lights, and use turn signals (and here everybody thought learning those hand motions in drivers’ ed was a waste of time!) It’s kinda scary to be in the road with the cars, but it’s also really neat.

Oh, and I forgot to mention… I may not be working at NASA this year, but I do live at NASA. We are all provided housing in dorms on site at NASA Ames. So hey, that’s pretty cool. SETI and Ames work very closely, in fact most of the SETI scientists also work at NASA.

Some of the cubicles at SETI. Every wall and surface in the office has a poster about space on it.

Some of the cubicles at SETI. Every wall and surface in the office has a poster about space on it.

My first week as a SETI intern was filled with presentations and lectures on all topics of SETI science. It was very cool to hear about all the different things going on here, and to meet science celebrities like Dr. Jill Tarter and Dr. Frank Drake. If you don’t know who they are, you should. The office itself is a lot like a university, minus the classrooms and students. Lots of offices with research posters covering all the walls, scientists walking around in attire ranging from those dressed more professionally to the ones in shorts and sandals, and free coffee all day in the break room. The thing I like most about this program versus an internship at a big, corporate company is just how chill it is. We dictate our own work hours (to an extent; you still have to work them out with your research mentor), wear whatever we feel like (though I’ve been trying to be a bit above my usual t-shirt and jeans fashion), and everybody is just really cool and friendly. It’s a great environment.

This is a plot of 2D temperature distribution in a protoplanetary disk.

This is a plot of 2D temperature distribution in a protoplanetary disk.

The scientist I’m working with this summer is Dr. Uma Gorti, and my project involves modeling the dissipation of protoplanetary disks, which is the astronomical phenomenon that forms planets. Basically what we’re investigating is how fast these disks are going away, and whether or not planets will form before they do that. So not directly hunting aliens but definitely still applicable – the aliens need planets to live on, y’know. I’m very glad I was selected for this project because it’s actually really similar to my work back at ERAU. These disks act a lot like our atmosphere as far as the fluids physics is concerned, and it will be great to have had the modeling practice when I begin working on the model for my thesis in the fall!

I’m also really excited because there’s a good chance I’ll get to present my research at a conference this year, and maybe even get a paper published depending on what kind of results we get. So crossing my fingers for that…!

The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

The beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

The first couple weeks here have been jam-packed with fun. In addition to the lectures and beginning our projects, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to explore the area. On our first Saturday, we all went up to San Francisco to see some of the big tourist attractions: Lombard Street, China Town, and the Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco is a wonderful city, and I’m sure we’ll be up there again because there’s so much to see and do. And it doesn’t feel icky or scary like some big cities do. Plus it’s just a $7 train-ride away from Mountain View!

One of the views from the Stanford Dish Trail

One of the views from the Stanford Dish Trail.

On Sunday a large group of us went to the Stanford Dish Trail for a hike. Well, sort of a hike – it was a paved road, but very hilly nonetheless. That’s another neat thing about California: there’s so much elevation, not to mention the mountains! Mountain View is very aptly named, because you literally see them in every direction. Florida is flat as a pancake. Which is good in its own way, but the scenery here just can’t be beat. But I digress. Anyways, this trail was really cool because it went past some of Stanford’s radio dishes, and from the top you get a fantastic view of the whole Valley and could even see San Francisco in the distance. It was also really cool to hike because in the biography of Sally Ride that I’m reading there’s a picture of her running that same trail. There’s just something neat about having been to the same places as such awesome, famous people.

A few of us interns outside the SF Giants stadium before the game.

A few of us interns outside the SF Giants stadium before the game.

Our second week of work was split by a company outing on Wednesday to see the San Francisco Giants play the San Diego Padres. For those of you who aren’t very sports savvy (like me), that’s baseball. And we totally kicked their butts – it was a no-hitter! Which means that the other team never even made it to first base. Ha. It was a lot of fun to hang out together, get the day off of work, and spend it in downtown San Francisco. The stadium was right on the bay, so we could see huge ships out in the water, which was way cool.


“Make your meanest Kahl Drogo face.”

For the second Saturday, a handful of us went up to Oakland to volunteer for the Evolution Expo: a SciFi/science convention in its first year. And boy was that cool. I spent the day working at the photo booth, where fans would pay to stand next to celebrities and have their picture taken. Well, let’s just say the expo wasn’t very well attended, so we ended up spending a lot of time just chatting with the actors and astronauts, and taking some silly photos of our own. Some of the big names I got to meet are Jason Momoa (Kahl Drogo from Game of Thrones), John Rhys-Davies (well-known for Gimli in Lord of the Rings, but I knew him as the professor from Sliders), Tim Russ and Garret Wang (both from Star Trek Voyager), and Amanda Tapping (from Stargate, which I’ve never watched, but I just want to note that she was such a cool person!) They were all really cool. It’s funny to see actors as people and not as their characters. Amidst the actors we also got to chat with astronauts Joe Edwards and Wendy Lawrence. All in all it was a really cool experience, and I’m very glad I woke up at 5 am to do it.

The Sunday after the expo we all packed up into two big vans and headed up to Hat Creek Observatory and Lassen National Park, but I’m going to save that adventure for my next entry… :)

Until next time!


Rockets, Racecars, and other fine things

Hello readers, it’s been a while since I’ve shared some stories with you, but let’s catch up!

It’s been a busy first few weeks this semester, mainly because of my new position at The Avion Newspaper, which I believe I mentioned before. I work as the News editor, and I manage the content which we run each week. It’s an honor to do, and I love all the new things it has been teaching me. You can read all of our issues by clicking here

My classes this semester are:

Physics 2, Turbine engines, Crew Resource Management, FMS Systems, and Aviation Legislation. It’s a pretty good variety of subjects and will keep me busy. I’m starting to get to the point in my degree program where the courses are much more specialized.

On to the cool stuff now!

My press badge. SO COOL. In the background is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

My press badge. SO COOL. In the background is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

On January 23rd I got the opportunity to drive down to KSC, (or Cape Canaveral, The Kennedy Space center, or whatever you prefer to call it) There, I was covering a rocket launch and had full PRESS accreditation as a reporter from The Avion Newspaper. I went with my managing Editor, Matt Micholowitz. We spent the evening hanging around the press area before we got on the bus to go to NASA static test road to watch the launch. United Launch Alliance was launching their TDRS-L satellite, which is a communications satellite for NASA’s Space Network. The Rocket was a Delta V-401 configuration and launched at 9:33 pm. It was really cold that night, and i was surrounded by a few dozen other anxious photographers waiting to get the perfect shot. My best photo we included in the Avion after I wrote a story on the launch, you can see my photo below. It was so cool to get to attend this launch, and I couldn’t have done it without being involved in The Avion Newspaper.

The Rocket lifts off at 9:33 PM, it lit up the entire area, it was awesome!

The Rocket lifts off at 9:33 PM, it lit up the entire area, it was awesome!

A few days later on the 25th  I got to go to the ROLEX 24, which was a 24 hour Endurance race featuring some of the most powerful supercars in the world. I spent 8 hours at the D  a  y  t  o  n  a    S  p  e  e  d  w  a  y with some other Avion Photographers: Trey Henderson-Editor in Chief, Matt Micholowitz-Managing Editor, Richard Weakly- Advertising Manager, Austin Coffey- Photo Editor, and Lynsay Hurilla-Business Manager.  I held a Canon 60D close and took some great photos!  it was the first time I got to use a professional quality camera and glass. The atmosphere was in an uproar of revving engines and screaming tires. I stayed from early afternoon until late at night, this allowed me to get a great variety of photos at the event.  It was the first time I had been at the track and will not be soon forgotten. I had a blast spending a day there, take a look at my favorite photos below.

A lot of power in this picture!

A lot of power in this picture!

rolex2 rolex3 rolex4

So as you can see, it’s been quite a ride so far this semester, my opportunities have opened up a lot through being at the Avion. These are the lives of students at ERAU, we get to do incredible things. It’s an honor to share them with you on this blog, as always, you are free to contact me with any questions about flying and life. It’s fulfilling to write this page, but the real value in it for me is when someone contacts me and wants to talk.

I get pretty busy here at school, and sometimes it can feel discouraging. It wears me down. Throughout last week I had a song in my head, it was from Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. All week long it played over and over:

“If you want to view paradise,

Simply look around and view it,

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world?

There’s nothing to it.”

So, you know what I did? I took time in the middle of the day to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory. Sure maybe I had other things to do, but the time i spent refreshed me to get through the week. It was much more important that I was focused and relaxed.  Sometimes you just have to escape into paradise for a while, and that’s what I did. Those words have become sort of a motto for me. If you want to make an impact, then just go do it! don’t let anything hold you back. If you look for the good things in life and take joy in them, you’ll be propelled by that Joy to do things you never felt possible. I’ve done things and gone places while at ERAU that I never imagined I would do.


Please email me at wilkinsz@my.erau.edu if you have any questions or just want to talk to someone about ERAU.


A banner tower circled above us for most of the daytime. I couldn't resist snapping a photo.

A banner tower circled above us for most of the daytime while at the 24. I couldn’t resist snapping a photo.



What a Week for Space!

Hello readers!

They had all sorts of MAVEN stuff up at KSC this weekend – loved it!

Boy was last week a great time to be a space-enthusiast (and a Kennedy Space Center season pass holder)! I hope you’ve all heard of the MAVEN mission that is en route to Mars as of last Monday. It’s a NASA mission that will be studying the evolution of Mars’ climate and atmosphere – Mars Atmospheric Volatile EvolutioN. And because my research interests are the Martian atmosphere, I’m looking forward to seeing what it brings us. But more exciting were last weekend’s festivities down at the Cape. All weekend they had speakers and specialists giving cool presentations about the mission and other aspects of NASA science, and I was there Saturday and Sunday to see it.

My lame tourist photo with Atlantis

Saturday morning I was up bright and early (legitimately early, I’m talking about 6 am) to head down to KSC with the Honors Student Association. I’m not member of HSA (though apparently I’m *technically* an “inactive” member just for being in the honors program), but they let me come just because I’m friends with the whole executive board and my season pass gets them free parking without costing them a dime on admission. So, y’know, it was a win-win. Of course the first thing we did was head over to the Atlantis exhibit, as none of them had seen it yet. It’s still just as breath-taking the second (and third) time around. After that we went over to listen to a NASA speaker, who was the director of astrobiology, give a presentation about MAVEN. It wasn’t super technical, but very cool all the same. The most entertaining part was the group of probably 5 or 6 year old kids who thought they knew the answers to all of her questions: “Why are we interested in studying Mars?” “Because it’s so hot? Because it’s the only planet without life?” Kids these days, am I right? (I assure you, my children will be completely educated about the universe and its workings before they are even toilet-trained.) They also kept asking about the astronauts on the MAVEN mission; I suppose “un-manned” just doesn’t make sense at that age. But I digress. After the talk I went over to speak with NASA’s director of astrobiology, because I never pass up the opportunity to schmooze a NASA employee. We chatted a bit and I expressed my interest in Martian science, and she gave me the name of somebody to contact asking about possible internships. No word back yet, but she’s probably pretty busy with the launch and stuff. We’ll see I suppose…..

Beautiful photo I took of the rocket garden at sunset.

Bill Nye the Science Guy in the flesh! Bow-tie and all.

Sunday afternoon I was right back down at the Cape to see their featured speaker, who was none other than…. Bill Nye the Science Guy! He gave a fantastic talk about why space exploration is important. Which was really cool to see in person, considering my American public schooling in science consisted pretty heavily of his show (I know you all can relate! Or at least those of you in the USA – my boyfriend, from India, didn’t even know who he was! :O) It was another great day at the Space Center, aside from my car almost running out of oil for some reason and having to stop at a Sunoco in the middle of nowhere to put three quarts in. And trust me, I can tell you the physics of how an engine works, but I certainly don’t know my way around one!

We couldn’t see him super well from where we were sitting so mostly watched the screen. Still cool!

MAVEN’s smoke trail in the sky, seen from near campus.

Monday was the big day – the launch! Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to go down to the Cape to watch, but I did go out to the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse that is about half an hour from campus to try and see. We had a clear view of the coastline where it launched from, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see it take off. It was okay though, because I had a live video feed on my iPhone that way cooler than watching a bright dot in the sky. And when the clouds moved out we were able to see the smoke trail it left behind. MAVEN has been on its way for about a week now, with only 9 months and 2 weeks left to go until it arrives!

I really did take this with my iPhone. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Oh, I forgot to mention, as if spending the day at KSC and seeing Bill Nye on Sunday wasn’t cool enough, I got to spend some time on the university’s telescope to do some moon observations for my astronomy class. It was exactly the night of the full moon, and what a sight it is through a telescope! By the way, if anybody tells you that you can’t take pictures by holding your iPhone camera up to the eyepiece of the telescope, they are very, very wrong. I took what are probably the coolest photos ever taken with an iPhone camera, hands down. I’m very excited to get our new telescope next semester, which will be the largest in the state of Florida! Hear that, prospective students? If you’re interested in space, ERAU is definitely the place to be. :) See below for some up close photos of the moon’s surface, taken by an iPhone camera….



Well, the semester’s winding down faster than I expected. Last week I spent a lot of time working on homework and projects, hoping to have some time to relax over Thanksgiving. I’m getting on a plane Tuesday afternoon to head back up to Minneapolis for the break (unfortunately there’s no snow to greet me). Which fell at a terrible time this year, because we get back next Monday and that’s the last week of classes! I’ll probably be working most of the break, since I still have some final projects to finish up and exams to study for.

My gorgeous new space book :)

I almost forgot – this week was also the 15th birthday of the International Space Station. And Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It was definitely a big week for space! Also, I won a really awesome space book in a raffle at Cookies & Craic (a bimonthly get-together for the ERAU Physics department, where you get to eat free cookies and chat with faculty and students.) It is leather bound and has gold page edges and a cloth bookmark and beautiful color photos. I love it. :) Also, NASA has started posting summer internships, and there is a planetary science position posted for Ames Research Center that I really really want. So pray to whatever deity you worship and cross all your fingers for me to get that – thanks!

Beautiful on the inside too

That’s all for now folks, tune in next week for my exciting recollection of Thanksgiving break and final project panic mode! Because I just wouldn’t be a proper college student without the latter.

And email me! I promise I don’t bite. SchroeL2@my.erau.edu


The Exciting Life of a Physics Student

Hello hello!

Time is sure flying, I can’t believe it’s been another two weeks. But I suppose I’ll pick up right where I left off in writing my life’s story. So here it goes…

A plot, similar to the one in my last entry, showing altitude above sea level and the corresponding vertical wind speed. This one is for Olympus Mons on Mars! Notice that the wind speed is about 10X higher, which makes sense because the mountain is a lot bigger.

Let me start off by pointing out the terrible error in my last post – my Mars map was upside down! I noticed it while working on my model in MATLAB. Major oops on that one. But I will say that it is now fixed, and the model is working beautifully. I was able to plot the vertical wind speed across Olympus Mons (which, as you recall from my earlier entries, is the largest volcano in the solar system at a height of about 26 km), and our next step is to implement these calculations in the atmospheric dynamics model to simulate some waves! If that sentence didn’t make sense to you, go back and read some of my past entries where I explain the basics of my research.

My CORRECT Martian topographic map generated in MATLAB. This time I used the copper color bar option, because the blue was a bit misleading. Lighter is higher elevation, and darker is lower elevation.

Speaking of physics and research and all that jazz, I’m getting pretty excited for the new College of Arts and Sciences building! They’ve named our new lab – it will be called ECLAIR:  Experimental and Computational Laboratory for Atmospheric and Ionospheric Research. Which is apparently French for “flash of lightning”, in addition to being a delicious French pastry. So for atmospheric scientists who are also partial to pastries, it seemed like a good fit. I will be presenting a poster about the new lab to the board of trustees on November 1st, which means I get to be one of the first people to stand inside the new building! Plus I get to wear a suit, and I always feel snazzy in a suit.

The new building seems like a good segway to my next topic – registering for next semester classes. Ah! It seems like this semester just started, and we’re already getting ready to register. My schedule for the spring seems pretty chill time-wise (only a couple classes on MWF, and a decent break on TTh) – I should note that, once you get to upper-level EP classes you start to lose control of making your own schedule. Every class I’m taking only has one section, and I lucked out in not having to take any 8:15s! Nonetheless, I’ll be taking five 300-level EP classes (Classical Mechanics, Optics, Microcomputers, Space Systems Engineering, and Junior Design); I saw my advisor today, and I quote… Me: “I just want to make sure next semester won’t kill me.” Him: “Oh it will.” Well then. I suppose it evens out for the fact that the classes will be really cool.

I also have to start thinking about a thesis topic, and man that feels so far off. I will probably continue to pursue my Martian atmospheric research, unless something else nifty catches my attention.

You never really get too old for Pokemon.

Now for those of you readers who are geeks like me, you’re probably wondering if I’m going to mention last weekend’s big release – Pokemon X and Y! Yes, I am, because that’s all I did this weekend. I bought a shiny new (used, but it’s new to me) 3DS – which is amazing technology might I add; I was skeptical – and picked up my copy of Y. I definitely have to give this game five stars, it’s completely revolutionized the franchise. And if you’re wondering, my entire team is named after moons, constellations, and space missions (Apollo, Aries, Triton, Phobos, Deimos, and Orion) because that’s just how I roll. I also found a shiny in the wild. If you don’t know what that means, just keep scrolling.

This weekend is fall break! Which is much needed. I’m planning to sleep, play Pokemon, sleep some more, watch Breaking Bad, and maybe plan a trip down to Kennedy Space Center if the government decides to run again. I should note that, while KSC is privately owned and operated and therefore still open during the shutdown, none of its tours run since it’s a government facility that’s being toured, and what’s the fun if you can’t see the cool space buildings?

This was posted on the Embry-Riddle Memes page the day of the career fair, with 298 “likes” and 33 “shares”. It made me lol.

Speaking of the government shut down, the career fair was last Wednesday (yes, that transition was completely relevant, just wait.) NASA wasn’t there obviously, which made me very very sad. I even stood next to their empty booth for a while hoping they’d magically appear and give me a job. They didn’t. BUT I did have a really good chat with a woman from Northrop-Grumman who seemed to really want to hire me. She had the same first name, so total ice-breaker, and asked me for two copies of my resume – one for the pile and one to take with her. So I’m expecting a phone call any day now, she practically promised -fingers crossed-. I also talked to some other small space companies that seemed really cool, and they seemed promising as well. Boeing seemed unimpressed, but they can keep their airplanes, I’m not interested.

And I almost forgot to mention Gravity! The movie, not the force. Go see it. Right now. It was so awesome. We went to the very first showing at 10 pm on Thursday night and saw it in 3D. Wow. That’s all I have to say about that. Granted the physics is a bit off in some places, but the amount of things they did right and the fact that the movie is simply incredible makes breaking physics worth it – and that’s coming from a physicist. (Plus, Sandra Bullock as an astronaut? You don’t want to miss that.)

Let’s see what else is going on… I suffered through an assignment for EP 501 that I think took 20-25 hours of work. It was four problems, and it took that long. What. I decided I don’t like grad school. Also, I had to go get a shot the other day, which, if you know me, you know is a big deal. I’m planning a trip to India this summer, so it’s probably worth it, but still – wah! Also also, the Indian restaurant here in Daytona that I go to about once a week got a new chef, and he makes my usual different and I’m sad. It’s not bad, it’s just not my usual anymore, y’know? (Have you ever noticed that the last paragraph of my blog entries are just the most random things I can think to mention?)

Will Northrop-Grumman ever call? What will happen with my Martian vertical forcing model? How much will I sleep during fall break? Get these exciting answers and more next time!


Summer B and Twelve Hours at Kennedy Space Center

Hello again to all my lovely readers!

I apologize for not having written in a while, though I haven’t really had anything interesting to talk about. Now that I have some stuff, commence blog post.

Spending the evening studying up on some circuitry.

Summer B is already well upon us; I’m taking Electrical Engineering this semester. It’s definitely a change from last semester’s math class, but so far I’m enjoying it. The material is very straight forward, and the instructor let us vote not to have a final. Although that means midterms will be weighted a lot more… could be a blessing or a curse, tune in later to find out. The thing I am enjoying about circuitry is that it makes both logical and mathematical sense. When you look at the equations, you can see exactly what they mean and why, just by understanding the way electricity is moving. And I have a good solid circuits foundation from Physics III, for which I am thankful, as most of what we have done up to this point has been review. Boy does time fly though; last week was our first of two midterms and our fifth of ten labs. That means Summer B is half over, and Fall is just around the corner!

I’ve been a lot busier with school this semester than last, which is ironic because it’s a junior-level undergraduate class versus the master’s level class I took last semester. I suppose it’s probably the lab component that’s keeping me busy – an extra 4-6 hours a week, plus writing two reports. As a result I haven’t had as much time to spend in SPRL, but with CEDAR behind me my task for the time being is just reading up on some literature. A good, firm understanding of one’s field is always great, but doesn’t make for good blog content, so I’m afraid that’s really all I have to say about that.

The fourth of July holiday came and went, and I didn’t really do much. I’ve learned to play some new songs on my acoustic guitar, and picked up a copy of Final Fantasy VIII. Per countless recommendations I’ve also started (and nearly finished) watching Game of Thrones. I won’t say anything that could spoil it for those interested in watching, just that it certainly lives up to its hype. I also went down to the Port Orange library yesterday to see a guy from NASA give a presentation on Mars. It was a really cool presentation, and I even slipped him a business card afterwards. I don’t know if I’ll get anything out of it, but I never pass up an opportunity to give my business card to a NASA employee. :)

The Atlas V lifting off! Not a great photo, but you really can’t get anything much better without one of those fancy schmancy cameras that I’m not fortunate enough to own.

Standing underneath the Saturn V at the Apollo center. It is a massive beast of a rocket!

I know that all isn’t very exciting, so now I’ll get to the exciting part: last Friday. It all started with waking up at 5 am and leaving the house with the sun still down. If you know me, you know that that does not happen. In fact, I live by a general rule that if you wake up and the hour is not yet double digits, it’s too early to be waking up. So, you may be wondering what got me on the road at 6 am, and the answer is SPACESHIPS. You may or may not be aware that on Friday there was the largest Atlas V launch to date, which took place around 9 am. We booked it down to Kennedy Space Center and arrived at about 7ish (the sun didn’t come up until we were well down I-95), and then got on a bus to be taken to the Saturn V center at KSC. If you weren’t aware, KSC has bleachers set up there, and it is the closest you can get to the launch publicly (i.e. without sneaking onto secret government property.) After a ten minute delay due to upper-atmospheric winds, the rocket finally went off at 9 am sharp, and boy was it a sight.

One of my pictures next to Atlantis. What a sight it was!

I think we spent half the trip posing in front of cool signs.

That was pretty much the best day ever. After the launch, we spent the day at KSC, and didn’t leave until they closed at 7 pm. And let me tell you, if you’re a space-enthusiast, KSC is even better than Disney World. We saw the new Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit first, and it was AWESOME. So well done. There were some really cool short movies before you even got into the exhibit, with the last one being projected onto a dome so the shuttle footage was all around you. Then the screen lifted up and right in front of you, not more than ten or twenty feet away, is Space Shuttle Atlantis. You could get within nearly an arm’s reach of it – it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The Space Shuttle exhibit is also home to the Shuttle Launch Simulator (which was at KSC before the Atlantis exhibit opened, though I had never had a chance to ride.) That was a really cool experience. They say that astronauts have ridden in it and said it’s as close to a real launch as you can get in a simulator.

Panoramic picture of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Click for the full-sized beauty!

NASA shuttle astronaut and astrophysicist, Dr. Sam Durrance.

Standing next to a full-size lego model of the Mars Spirit/Opportunity rover. Of course they can’t display the real ones because they’re still over on Mars.

Another cool thing at KSC is the Astronaut Encounter, where they have an astronaut come give a presentation and then you can take pictures with him afterwards. He gave a really great speech, and it was cool because, not only was he a shuttle astronaut, but also an astrophysicist. We also watched an IMAX film about the Hubble Telescope, walked around in the future explorers building (they had some cool Mars stuff there), and took tons of pictures all over the park. It was really a twelve hours well-spent. It was dark again by the time I arrived back home, and I collapsed into bed and slept straight through until about noon.

KSC is running a deal on annual passes right now in celebreation of the new shuttle exhibit, and I highly recommend taking advantage. It is only $5 than general admission, and because parking is $10 and the pass gets you free parking, it’s actually cheaper to get the pass than it is to go once at the normal rate! Plus you save 20% on all food and 10% in the gift shop (which is literally the coolest gift shop I have ever been in), and can get guests in for $10 off. It’s only about 45 minutes from campus, and makes for a fantastic trip – so head down there! I plan to go at least two or three more times before my annual pass expires.

That’s all I have to say for now. Another week starts tomorrow, and before long August will be upon us! (I apologize for the photo-heavy post, if you have a slow browser!)