In June we announced that NASA’s Science Program Manager Adriana Ocampo had extended a very special invite for the Mendeley team to be at NASA HQ to witness the Pluto New Horizons Encounter! Naturally we were excited about this incredible opportunity… so much so that we focused four of our internal hack-days on space-themed hacks, and the hackers that received the most votes won places on the trip across the ocean (we’ll tell you all about the hacks in an upcoming blog post).
So after lots of planning and preparation, off we flew to Washington DC with 20 space enthusiasts from the Mendeley, Elsevier and Newsflo team…
Upon arrival in D.C. the team was almost too excited to sleep in anticipation of the early rise for the July 14th New Horizon’s closest approach to Pluto at NASA HQ scheduled for 7.49 am (EST)!
We were struck with the real gravity of what was happening – The New Horizons mission, to the Dwarf Planet Pluto, is a pioneering feat of astronomical research that was launched back in January 2006, and this would be the first time ever that we’d be able to see properly see Pluto – and we were there to witness the final arrival at this far distant world.
“We don’t know exactly what we’ll see, but we know from decades of experience in first-time exploration of new planets that we will be very surprised” – Ralph McNutt, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).
We waited patiently in the auditorium until the countdown began… 10… 9… 8… after 9.5 years, a total of 3463 days of traveling up to 47,000 mph for more than 3 billion miles, New Horizons was finally making it’s Pluto Flyby… 3… 2… 1… 0!!!!
After the excitement died down, we were lucky to be joined by two NASA staff – Planetary Geologist Sarah Noble and Planetary Science Division Program Officer Christina Richey. These two knowledgeable Women in STEM talked to us about the mission, answering all of our questions about New Horizons and Pluto.
During the event, we were joined in the auditorium by a class of Colombian school children who were learning about planetary science. Our Spanish speaking Software Engineer, Carles Pina, was subsequently involved in some spontaneous outreach and took the time to talk to the school group about programming and why it’s a useful skill – inspiring the next generation of Software Engineers!
We also had the privilege of interviewing Beth Beck, NASA’s Open Innovation Program Manager, about New Horizons as well as issues and solutions for women in data. You can watch the video here.
After lunch in the botanical gardens, we had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Our guide, U.S. Air Force veteran Vince, gave us a wonderfully educational guide, taking us on a journey from the first human flight attempts through the advancements in aviation, all the way to exploring the planets and human space travel.
On Wednesday July 15th, we hosted some Mendeley events to coincide with the publication of our report “New Horizons: From research papers to Pluto“, a document examining the role of academic publishing in launching and learning from deep space missions – which is freely available to download.
In the afternoon at the Wilson Center, our NASA’s New Horizons: Innovation, Collaboration and Accomplishment in Science and Technology event was attended by more that 100 people. Here, we presented a series of lightning talks from Paul Tavner (Educational Resources Manager, Mendeley), Jan Reichelt (Co-founder and CEO, Mendeley), Beth Beck (NASA Open Innovation Program Manager, HQ Office of Chief Information Officer), William Gunn (Director of Scholarly Communications, Mendeley), Callum Anderson (Development Manager, Mendeley), Rob Knight (Software Engineer, Mendeley), Robbertjan Kalff (Social Project Manager, Mendeley), our two space hack winners George Kartvelishvili and Richard Lynne, as well as the team of Policonnect. We will be sharing the video footage of these talks with you soon on our YouTube channel! In the mean time, check out our summary video here.
In the evening, we held a networking meet-up at the Laughing Man Tavern. This event gave us a chance to meet some of our dedicated Mendeley Advisors, to discuss New Horizons, research and Mendeley. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet so many.
Finally, with an invigorated enthusiasm for space science, our NASA badges, and an awesome story to tell… we packed our bags and flew back to Europe.