A Great Day to Go Flying

By Mike Holtz
NASA Project Lead, Operations/Flight Test Engineer
Weather was on the warm side as we prepared for another mission in NASA F/A-18 #852 testing the Mars Science Laboratory landing radar, but it was still a great day to go flying.  

After intensive and lengthy ground operations on the order of an hour in the aircraft, we taxied out for our flight. We climbed up to 48,000 feet altitude and lined up for the first series of dives. We flew dive angles at 20, 30, 45 and 60 degrees.

Image right: NASA research pilot Nils Larson, left, and Mike Holtz review flight test cards before a test mission in an F/A-18.

The MSL radar within the QTEP – Quick Test Experimental Pod – was set to run several different gimbal angles, some locked and some actively slewing, all with the intent of radiating off the lakebed in some combination with the dive angles from the F-18. All but one test point on the flight cards was achieved before we hit our “bingo,” or minimal fuel remaining, and we had to land. The radar was developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the JPL engineers were very happy with the flight. The radar engineers said the data looked fantastic.  

A very good mission, plus I’m pretty sure I lost 5 pounds sweating in the cockpit!

Art Meets Aerospace

(Editor’s Note – NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Dryden Flight Research Center are among aerospace facilities featured in an artistic photography exhibit on display through Feb. 12 at the Blythe Projects gallery, 5797 Washington Blvd., Culver City, Calif. In the following blog, the photographer shares some of his thoughts on creating the imagery.)  

By Michael Salvatore Tierney

When I grew up in Los Angeles during the 1970s and 1980s, both of my parents were employed by Hughes Ai
rcraft. The elusive and mysterious aerospace industry was at the core of my young life. My persistent desire to revisit and explore the industry that informed me personally and shaped so much of the Southern California landscape led me to create my Aerospace series.

Image above right: the Mars rover Curiosity captured during assembly in a JPL clean room.

Developments that have come out of this industry have had a profound effect on us as a region, a nation and a culture. Aerospace has been a crucible for some of man’s greatest scientific and technological achievements. It struck me that many Californians go about their daily lives mere miles from where these marvels are being carefully orchestrated, without even knowing of their existence.

The rich history and current developments in the aerospace industry lent themselves perfectly to this project. My quest led me to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, JPL, Caltech and Edwards Air Force Base, all of which
Shuttleare in Southern California. I was able to explore and photograph groundbreaking achievements of the past and the most phenomenal dreams for the future.

Image right: Space shuttle Discovery encased in the Mate-Demate Device at Dryden in September 2009.

I explored these institutions from strictly a fine-art point of view rather than through the eyes of a documentarian. By deconstructing the images and rebuilding them digitally, I was able to instill the photos with both a sense of memory and obscurity. It was an honor to create images that present an innovative approach to viewing aerospace. Exhibiting the works in a contemporary fine art arena has allowed me to introduce aerospace to an audience not fully aware of this evolving phenomenon