Sunday, June 19, 2016

Celebrating 75 Years at NASA Glenn

Glenn’s 75th anniversary logo
NASA Glenn Research Center celebrated 75 years in 2016 by hosting multiple events including open houses at Glenn's Lewis Field main campus in Cleveland, Ohio on May 21 and 22, and at Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio on June 11 and 12. These were free events that were open to the public, so, of course, I had to go! 

And I wasn't alone -- along with my husband and youngest son, the first open house at Glenn's main campus seemed like at least half of Ohio had also come out to tour the facility. Despite the long line just to park -- not to mention once we finally got inside -- we agreed that it was great to see so many people excited about NASA!

My husband and I have been to Glenn's main campus a few times before in Cleveland, but there was much more to see and do during their Open House. The full agenda is available to see on their website We basically got to walk freely around the entire campus going into buildings and seeing projects. There were also speakers scheduled at various locations. It was amazing how many labs and projects we had such close access to see and explore. We also got to hear from so many of the scientists, engineers, and other employees who work every day on these amazing projects.

Astronaut Doug Wheelock
One of the speaker sessions on May 21 was with astronaut Doug Wheelock. The first time I met Doug was during my first NASA Tweetup (aka NASA Social) experience for the STS-135 launch of the Atlantis, the last space shuttle launch in July 2011. Wheelock was our tour guide the day before the launch out to a field that was barely a stone's throw away from the launchpad with the Atlantis space shuttle. That STS-135 pre-launch experience was such an amazing day -- and a close second to being almost as amazing as the launch itself! Ever since that hot July day, I had a niggling regret that I had not gotten his autograph on my NASA STS-135 shirt that I had several other astronauts autograph that I met during that experience... So, it was especially great to see Doug again so I could finally get closure by having his signature on my NASA shirt from that epic last shuttle experience. Thanks to Doug for signing it and being so gracious even though my request (and previous regret) probably sounded so strange!

My hubby, Scott Davis (left) and me "Indiana Julie" (right)
Our next open house took us to Plum Brook Station in Sandusky on June 11. Much like it had been in Cleveland, it was a very busy time again getting into the event although there was ample parking at the Kalahari Convention Center. Once inside there were lots of NASA exhibits and family-friendly things to see and do there. After a quick look around, we quickly figured out how to get in line for the line where we needed to get in line for the line to board the buses to head out to Plum Brook Station! Here's an overview about the various events there:

The picture to the left is after we returned back to the convention center for more fun after all of our adventuring around Plum Brook Station.

One of my favorite parts of our visit to Plum Brook was learning more about Project Morpheus. Check out this video I took of Morpheus here:

Project Morpheus
B-2 and Morpheus
Morpheus is a NASA prototype planetary lander capable of vertical takeoff and landing. At Plum Brook, the experimental landing craft was located in the B-2 area. More precisely it was suspended over the open thermal vacuum chamber in the B-2 facility. Plum Brook Station's B-2 is the world's largest space simulation facility, and it is capable of full-scale rocket engine and stage testing.

B-2 and Morpheus again

Check out some more of my photos from the Plum Brook Station open house here:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mixing Science and Fiction

As I've mentioned a few times on here, I've been working on a YA science fiction novel.

For the traditional path to publishing, you need an agent. Part of getting an agent involves sending out query letters. A lot of query letters. And trying to quickly explain a true science element in my story when most of the other science in my story is (currently) speculative fiction has been a challenge.

My story takes place in 2058 when things like cyborgs, genetically engineered humans, automated cars and planes, and virtual reality in a wearable contact lens are a normal part of everyday life.

My main character, Mark, is a high school student who carries a genetic disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia. Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) is a real albeit rare prion disease like "mad cow" disease. FFI typically strikes people later in life with debilitating insomnia that progressively worsens until the person can no longer sleep at all and eventually dies. It isn't contagious, and it has no known cure. FFI is real science.

In my story, Mark's father is a scientist looking for a cure to FFI, and his experiments may have caused a deadly outbreak. That's the science fiction part. My story also explores our understanding (or lack thereof) of the nature of sleep.

Back to real science and our time circa 2016. Scientists still don't know why humans (or other creatures) have to sleep. Sleep takes up a third of our lives, but scientists still know very little about why we need it—other than it is essential. If we don't sleep, we die. Why is that? My science fiction story provides a possible answer to that question with disturbing implications.

A query letter has to get a lot of information across in a very limited amount of words. And most of those words (200 or so) are spent on the hook. The first part of the hook is pretty straight-forwarded. "I have a completed [word count] [genre] novel titled [TITLE HERE] about [protagonist name] who [description of conflict]." The trickier part in a limited space can be explaining what your character wants, why he wants it, and what keeps him from getting it. Setting up my story hook plus explaining the conflicts and choices my main character is facing doesn't leave a lot of room. So, I'm struggling on how to or if I should try to eloquently insert commentary about "real" versus "fiction" science in my story.

I hope my quest to find an agent has a happy ending...I'll keep you posted.

I'm Julie Tuttle Davis, and I'm trying to get an agent to pick me out of the "slush pile" and guide me through the journey to published author.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Busy Making Other Plans

I didn't post on this blog at all in 2015 because life has been keeping me rather busy on other things. Now that a quarter of 2016 is here and almost gone, I wanted to write a quick update before this year goes by without a blog entry too!

Just because I haven't been posting on here doesn't mean I haven't been busy (I suggest you follow me on Twitter and Facebook if you want more timely updates!) I've been to Hawaii (the Big Island) twice. Once in January 2015 with my husband, and once this January 2016 with my husband and two sons.

One of the biggest changes to happen already this year has been getting a new job. I started back at Ball State University in March 2016 working for The Indiana Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Humanities. And I must say IT FEELS GREAT TO BE BACK AT BALL STATE! It also feels great not to be working in a city over two hours away from my house, husband, kids, dog...essentially my life as I know and love it. My time in Terre Haute at Rose-Hulman was a learning and growing experience, but as cliche as it sounds...I'm glad to be starting a new chapter.

Speaking of chapters...I'm also still working on my book. I've been writing and rewriting (and rewriting) for what seems like a millennium now. I recently joined an online critique group. And I also started to send out query letters to seek representation for my completed YA sci-fi novel.

Alright 2016, you're feeling like you might be a big year for more Indiana Julie adventures. Stay tuned...