Testing – I’ve been thinking about that this week. There’s a lot of it going on here in Las Cruces. It was finals week at New Mexico State University. And as I write this, lots of my friends are grading exams, reading final project papers and making critical decisions – nope not about students, but about themselves. Right.
Testing can be a way for the tester to learn how well they did by looking at the performance of their students or instruments. You thought they only cared about your performance? Nope, they care about their own as well, testers learn about themselves, too.
Testing goes on all the time in life. Take car dealers. They offer rebates right now. Will these rebates lure you to the dealership? Who is being tested? You or the car dealer? What’s the question – did the car dealer buy the right cars? Is the rebate big enough? Will you go to the dealership for a test drive? If the dealership never offers rebates, never buys cars, there is no need to test. For any students reading this article, keep going, it gets better. Testing can actually be exciting.
What did the designers of the Orion Launch Pad Abort test want to learn? What was the test meant to demonstrate? It had just under 700 sensors on the test article. Each sensor gathers data about the performance of the vehicle during the test. The designers of the Pad Abort system had to know what they wanted to measure because they had to build the sensors into the system.
The test conductors are like the faculty this weekend; they are looking at the results of the tests, but they are also learning about themselves. Las Cruces taught our guests that we can host a heck of a test event, too. More than 1,100 people went to the test. It was exciting. White Sands Missile Range personnel did a great job letting the world know that we understand the space business and support it.
Last Tuesday, you read about the very successful Student Launch at Spaceport America. That was an inspiring final exam for the students from all over New Mexico who had instruments on the flight. We recovered the experiments and got them back to the students by the end of the day so they could begin looking at the data they collected during flight.
The students became the teachers. They became the evaluators. Now they have to look at what their instruments tell them. What did they ask the instrument to evaluate? Will they get answers that tell them anything? I will let you know. The results will be posted on our website next week at launchnm.com.
The designers of the Pad Abort Test may get good data back, they may not get all they wanted. I’ll let you know what they get back, too. It will be posted on our website. And if you want to write me, please do.
I attended another type of test yesterday. A proposal for a doctoral research project. This is process similar to what the designers of the Pad Abort Test went through as they began to construct the vehicle – a peer review process. What is your question and how are you going to go about answering it? Then comes the grilling. Do we already know the answer to that question? Why are you choosing to measure one way versus another? Is that measurement system going to tell you what you want to know?
Southern New Mexico will soon be the global center of human spaceflight. As more humans go to space, we will continue to ask questions? Why humans, why not machines, sensors?
I met a priest at a First Holy Communion ceremony last week, and yes, he told me ever since he was a very little boy he knew he wanted to be in space. Not just go to space but spend time there. He didn’t know he was going to meet me. Yet, when he began to talk about how he wanted to experience spaceflight, it was clear. Almost since he can remember, going to space has been part of this man’s life.
The steps we take to investigate how to safely get humans to space include knowing the answers to the investigation we conducted here in Las Cruces – both during the Student Launch and the Pad Abort Test. For you students, I hope you understand, sometimes the testers don’t know what they are going to get for answers. That’s why we test. To learn.