Student Shadow Program Sees ORACLES in Action

September 19th, 2016 by Danitza Klopper

It’s day 11 of the NASA ORACLES Student Shadowing Program and I’m still bursting with excitement; what an absolute wonder to watch the team in action. As a PhD student from South Africa it’s great to be exposed to the latest research in the field of atmospheric science and have the opportunity to be submerged in the brilliance of the science on the go.

Danitza Klopper (second from right) with a group of NASA scientists and shadowing Namibian and South African students. Photo credit: Cordes Cafe staff

Danitza Klopper (second from right) with a group of NASA scientists and shadowing Namibian and South African students. Photo credit: Cordes Cafe staff

Coordinating a group of over 100 vivacious and enthusiastic scientists, engineers, data specialists, pilots, flight crew and technicians is a mammoth task which seems to be taken in the stride of the principal investigators of the ORACLES mission team. Not to mention hosting seven eager students and keeping us busy. We feel like kids again, in the shadows of our heroes, smitten and in awe; doting our NASA backpacks and stickers on our laptops, eagerly watching them fiddle with their high-tech instruments and programs. One could expect to be completely overwhelmed and obscured with so much brainpower in one room, but we were met by a high-spirited and humble group of human beings who are actively pouring their insight, knowledge and passion into this mission to help explain the complex interactions between aerosols and clouds.

We get to see the hard work that goes into it all, and although sleep is a valuable commodity and “hard down days” are sacred, when there’s work to be done fingers tap away at keyboards, markers squeak on drawing boards and you can all but smell the firing of neurons. What an environment to be submerged in! Networking, exchanging and watching science in action; this is an invaluable experience that will never be forgotten and illustrates the hard work that goes into these missions which make large amounts of invaluable data available to researchers around the world to interpret the mind-boggling nature of the atmosphere.

In true NASA spirit I thought it would be apt to describe the NASA-ORACLES team with the accronym, SUPERCOOL (Scientists who Understand that Passion and pERseverance Coincides with resOlving the Obscure and unexpLained).

ER-2 pilot in the van before flight. Credit: Danitza Klopper

ER-2 pilot in the van before flight. Credit: Danitza Klopper

 

 

 

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Notes from the Field