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Take a Tour of NASA Labs

Rachael Yunis | November 8, 2021

Damian Ludwiczak is the Chief of the Mechanisms and Tribology Branch at the NASA Glenn Research Center. He’s the author of the Apologia title Exploring Creation with High School Astronomy and technical editor and content contributor to the Young Explorer title, Exploring Creation with Astronomy. Damian gave us a tour of some of his labs.


We started in the SLOPE (Simulated Lunar OPErations) Laboratory, one of several of Damian’s labs. You might have seen the Today Show’s episode with Al Roker that explored some of the labs that we got to explore too.

It’s here in giant sand pits with different particulate matter that simulate the surface of the Moon and Mars where future rover/tire designs are tested for viability.

I got to see the latest in tire design and learn why a particular type and shape of material works better than another.

Dr. Sam Yunis, a retired NASA engineer, shows how light the replica of the tires used on the Moon were.

The Spring Tire is a design being tested for strength and durability.

Fun Fact: This 3D replica of a tire on the Curiosity Rover exploring Mars has a visual odometer (holes in the wheel) built in so that scientists can measure distances in photos sent back. NASA engineers do have a sense of humor, the odometer is Morse code, spelling out JPL, one of NASA’s many research centers.

I had the opportunity to try and steer a remote-control rover that had a built-in time delay, simulating delays between Earth and outer space missions. It was harder than I thought.

When excavating on planets in our solar system, engineers need to test out all different types of seals to ensure that machinery will not break down and become useless. It’s hard to repair a machine that is on a different planet!

The Augmented Reality Sandbox was fun to experience. Here you can test out different land typographies and make it “rain” or even cause “tsunamis.”

This lab tests out the seals on a spacecraft. The seals are important in all space missions. Will they hold? Can they withstand extreme pressures or temperatures?

This machine simulates what happens to all the wire connections when a spacecraft separates from a seal of another unit. Where do the wires tend to fly? Will they get in the way of a future seal?

Apologia thanks Damian Ludwiczak for the opportunity to learn more about space research and we’re grateful that Damian is an Apologia author and technical editor.