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Did you explore with us?

Explore@NASA Goddard
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Pat Izzo

If you’ve ever driven by NASA Goddard, you might have noticed there’s not that much to see from outside the fence.  You might catch a glimpse of a building or two, peeking between the trees.  You get a better view from the Visitor Center, which is the only public area of Goddard that anyone can visit, but the outsides of the buildings here don’t really give much hint of what goes on inside.  Sometimes, I’ve thought that Goddard is a bit like Willy Wonka’s factory – large and mysterious, full of innovations and intrigue.  What goes on behind those gates?  Do we have Oompa-Loompas working on our satellites?

Well, last weekend about 15,000 people got a “golden ticket” and saw what goes on behind the gates.

Alas, we don’t have a chocolate river (just a small lake, seen here in infrared), and our scientists, engineers, technicians, and other support staff come from a much wider variety of places than Loompaland.  But we’ve got dozens of buildings where people are continuously doing cutting-edge science and engineering, and thousands of employees with unique insight and knowledge to share.  It’s a big deal when we open the gates to the public, and this year’s event was no exception – I participated in months of planning meetings to put together the wide array of activities and opportunities that were offered for one day only.  The photo above shows just a tiny piece of the event, our grassy “mall” covered with tents and activity domes.  There were several other areas of Goddard with activities going on in buildings and tents, enough that we had buses and walking routes to help people get around (Goddard’s a big place!).

I didn’t get an opportunity to check out the majority of the offerings, because I was running educational activities in a tent outside of the building that I work in.  My colleagues and I were talking to groups about supernova explosions, and how the elements that they create and distribute are essential to our lives.  I never get tired of talking about how we’re all made of star stuff!  But we heard from our visitors about how much fun they were having, learning about black holes, building with gumdrops, and seeing robots dance.  I admit, I was a little jealous to hear about some of the things that people were seeing and doing – even employees don’t get some of those opportunities!

Credit: Maggie Masetti

So… did you come explore with us?  What did you get to see and do?

And if you didn’t get a chance to take part in this event, how can we bring a bit of it to you?  What aspect of Goddard would you like Blueshift to explore and share with you?



  • Pamela says:

    I really enjoyed the day! Personally I do appreciate most the ‘real’ space objects such as the rockets and satellites – they are so special. I think you really got it right with the various exhibitions and the amount of information available was impressive. If anything could possibly be better, a restaurant at the visitor center would have been appreciated. But, hey, Goddard is a real live space center and not Disneyland!

    Thanks so much for your articles Sara, it’s obvious that you really care about the public relations side of business too!

    • Sara Mitchell says:

      Pamela – Glad you enjoyed it! We’re currently discussing the future of the Visitor Center, and a new facility could potentially include food. But that’s quite a few years into the future… at least we get food trucks at these events!

  • Brian says:

    Yes, it’s interesting that we are all made from “star stuff”! We just saw a documentary on how all the elements in the universe are created from stars and when they go super nova!

    This looks like a good website for my kids to explore as they are really into the universe and planets in our solar system right now.

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