Saturday, March 21, 2015

Nuclear Society of America

For the last seven months I have been working on a project for NASA. Almost every mission that NASA launches includes one or more radioisotope heating units (RHU) to keep their electronics warm. Semiconductors become conductors if they get too cold so the sole purpose of the RHU is to keep the electronics warm. At the center of the RHU is a pellet of Pu-238 which gives off heat from its emission of alpha particles. My job was to use the heat from the RHU to provide a small amount electricity using thermoelectrics. 

As we were preparing the final report for our phase I work some of the guys at NASA suggested that we submit a joint paper at the upcoming NETS conference. NETS (Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space) is the part of the American Nuclear Society that develops nuclear technology for use in space. So myself and a group of my colleges put together a paper and I presented it a few weeks ago Albuquerque. This conference was fascinating. The most difficult part was deciding which of the papers I wanted to listen to. They had four papers going on simultaneously and I wanted to go to all of them. 

I presented Wednesday at 11:30 just before lunch and I think it went well. It was well attended and I had plenty of questions and comments afterwards so there was definitely some interested. I also received several emails afterwards from people wanting to work together.  

Wednesday evening they served a banquet and the keynote speaker was William H. Gerstenmaier who is the administrator at NASA in charge of manned space flight. He was an excellent speaker and the whole time I was wishing I could talk to him one-on-one about NASA's plans. 

After dinner I thought I would hang around and see if there was any chance of talking to him and to my surprise everyone was so anxious to get home they just got up and walked out of the hall. There was Gerstenmaier pretty much standing by himself. I just walked up to him and we had a great conversation. I loved it. 

While in Albuquerque I had fully intended to go for a run but to my surprise it was freezing. I could see my breath. There was no way I was stepping outside in a pair of shorts. Thursday morning when I was headed to the airport it was actually snowing. I couldn't believe it. I now have a lot more sympathy for my Canadian family who loves to run. I'm not sure how Justin trained for that last marathon. Oh, that's right, he didn't train for it.  

It was a wonderful trip. 

Pluto never made a full orbit around the sun 
from the time it was discovered to when it was declassified as a planet.


Kathy Marx said...

Fred!!! Inspiring!!!

Lisa said...

You amaze me!