|Also, aren't train stations beautiful? So classy.
|And the first thing I saw when I stepped out of Union Station was this beauty.
For the last half of my tour, I hooked up with the Dangerous Ladies book tour. This group of amazing ladies made this tour so. Much. Fun.
Five cheers for the five Dangerous Ladies on tour!
From left to right: Me, author of A World Without You; Renee Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn; Megan Shepherd, author of The Cage; Gwenda Bond, author of Lois Lane: Fall Out; Megan Miranda, author of The Safest Lies.
Our first stop was at Hooray for Books! Everything about this store made me smile, from the beautiful book display on that cute table...
...to the adorable frog prince on the sign...
...and especially the delicious cookie they gave us!
The next day, I roped some of the girls on tour with me into heading out to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center! HUGE shout-out of gratitude to Janine K Spendlove for introducing me to Maggie--make sure you check both their work out in anthologies by Silence in the Library Press!
Maggie was gracious enough to take me, Renee, and Megan M on a tour of the campus, and it was amazing.
Right now, the project at NASA Goddard Center that I was most interested in was the James Webb Space Telescope. This beaut is being launched in 2018, and will be a hundred times more powerful than Hubble. Hubble, you know, the beautiful telescope that got us all the amazing images of our universe? A hundred times more powerful than that.
|Selfie with Hubble pics
I'll admit to not knowing that much about the James Webb Space Telescope before this trip. Fortunately, we had a Nobel prize-winning scientist, John Mather, standing by to explain all the amazing things this telescope can do.
You guys, I don't even know my life. Sometimes I look at myself and think, How? How did I get so lucky that I got to go on a tour of a NASA facility with a Nobel-prize winning scientist answering my dumb questions?!
Also? I have to point out that the mirrors on the James Webb Space Telescope are golden and look like a honeycomb, and all I could think about every time I saw it was The Body Electric! And! And! Nobel-prize-winning-scientist John Mather said that the telescope was so strong it could see a bumblebee on the moon, and my brain said Ella! Ella and the Body Electric and beeeeeesssss!!!!
Okay, serious time. What you're looking at here is one of the world's largest clean rooms. An entire wall is made of air filters, and everyone in the room has to wear full-body suits after taking an air bath. They even duct tape their gloves to their suits.
The telescope is under that silver rectangle thing in the above photo--the scientists on the ground floor are working on it. We didn't get that great of a view of the actual telescope, but you can see it at all angles on these videos.
No big deal, just watching scientists shoot lasers at mirrors to test for a space telescope, you know, a regular Tuesday.
So the telescope is made of mirrors like the one above (telescope mirror selfie for the win!). The actual metal of the mirrors is beryllium, plated in gold. Unrelatedly, they told me I couldn't touch the telescope because (a) beryllium is poisonous and also (b) touching the mirrors would mess everything up and lol they're too smart to let me into the clean room with the real telescope.
Here's a small mock-up of what the mirror will look like (the painted hive on the wall is lifesize). Don't the gold mirrors look like a honeycomb?
And the silver surfboards below--these are heat shields. The bottom of the telescope will face the sun (always), but the top of the telescope must be cold so as not to mess up the mirrors. The solution? These heat shields.
The material was amazing. Thinner than tin foil, but basically unrippable.
Renee had to test it to make sure. NASA and Renee-approved.
Of course, once the telescope is complete, it's going to have to go through some tests. See that behemoth above? It's big enough to hold the telescope in a sterile environment.
And this thing? Basically a shaker table. Put the telescope and shake, shake, shake...and hope it doesn't break apart. But they have to make sure it'll survive the trip up into space. (Once in orbit, the telescope will be pretty stable...it's getting there that's the dangerous part.)
And this giant room? Well, check out those huge speakers and subwoofers built in the wall, designed to blast the telescope and make sure it can't be sound-damaged.
The Goddard Center is about more than just the James Webb Telescope (although, I must admit some partiality towards that beauty). There's a giant centrifuge room big enough to spin cars at such a high force it would kill a person.
I know. I asked if I could ride in it. Between this and beryllium, seems like I don't have good NASA survival instincts.
There are also these very cool (ha! pun!) thermal vacuum chambers that can test smaller telescopes and satellites. (You can see the blue top of one here.)
After checking out the telescopes, we got to explore the robotic branch of Goddard.
It was fascinating, particularly the Asteroid Redirect Mission.
In the picture above, the big black thing is a boulder from an asteroid. A potentially Earth-killing asteroid (think: dinosaur extinction). The Asteroid Redirect Mission will spot these giant asteroid 20-30 years before they reach Earth, and then send this giant robot out to the asteroid. It'll pluck a boulder from the asteroid, then start orbiting the asteroid to redirect its path. Crazy cool, right?! More info here.
Another project this group is working on is retrofitting current satellites to be refueled. A lot of the space telescopes that were sent out before were never meant to be refueled because, frankly, we didn't know how refuel them.
They're perfectly good telescopes, but they're running out of fuel. This mission is to send a giant robotic arm that will service the telescope and retrofit it to be able to take fuel. It's basically a gas can and a robotic arm and that's awesome.
After exploring all of NASA's cool missions at the Goddard Center, Renee, Megan, Maggie, and I went over to the jamboree that was being held, showcasing more of NASA's missions. The one that particularly grabbed me was the cryogenics branch--because of Amy and Elder in Across the Universe, obviously--but also because they were offering cryogenic ice cream! :)
There was also a scavenger hunt going on--which Megan, Renee, and I were of absolutely no use--but it led us to this cool little stop...
John's Nobel Prize for Physics! I've never seen one in real life before--that was super cool! Also, fun FYI, the Nobel Prize is the only Pokestop on campus, which means I got to get a Pokestop that only NASA employees can get...
It's the little things in life. (Also, note that the NASA crew are apparently Team Instinct?)
Afterwards, we checked out the Visitor's Center, where we took a selfie in front of Saturn...
Checked out a piece of the moon that was recovered as part of the Apollo 14 mission...
...and I got trapped in the Gemini Command Module.
They also had a cool room that showcased the sun, and I stood in front of it and claimed myself queen of the solar system.
All in all, an amazing day! I loved getting to discover all the missions, from the robotic arms to the telescope that is surely going to blow our minds in just a few short years.
The only Star Wars vending machine at NASA (very appropriate). On NASA days, Renee and I wear Star Wars shirts (we mocked Megan soundly for not having one with her).
Of course, that's not the only thing we had to do that day! After all the science that NASA could stuff in our brains, we had to dash off for our next event, this one at the wonderful One More Page Books!
This happened to be the only stop where all five of the Dangerous Ladies could meet up, so it was extra special. Also new bestie Rae was there.
After a fantastic event, we went out to eat and then begged Renee, who is queen of beauty, to give us make overs! I told her to "go crazy" with my look, no holds barred :)
The next day, we drove down to Richmond, VA, to go to The Fountain Bookstore. I've been aching to go here forever; this is one of those bookstores I've heard about in an almost legendary way.
And the stop was amazing.
Not only did we have a standing-room-only, almost-to-the-street turn out, but we sold out of A World Without You! And the people were so graciously kind. Our host even made a fantastic card game for us to play--the YA literary version of Cards Against Humanity. It was hilarious!
I also got to meet fellow Razorbill author Sarah Marsh! We're both writing about necromancers, whee!
We tried to stop by the Poe house to show our respects to the "Nevermore" author, but alas, time was too short, and this was as close as we got on our way to Chapel Hill!
Flyleaf Books hosted us, and we had a blast--they're always so wonderful! And in the back room, they had copies of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child...but they didn't let me steal a box at all!
Don't worry--I've got my copy and will be reading it this weekend...at the Read Up Greenville Book Festival! Hope to see you all there!
Remember! It's not too late to enter my giveaway--check out my last post for more details!