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Kurt’s First NASA Internship Term Report: Spring 1991

Today, January 7th 2024, marks exactly 33 years of my working for NASA. I recently found the below 2-page, single-spaced report that I wrote at the end of my first internship semester, Spring of 1991. Who remembers dot matrix printers?!?

My first internship term was a pretty good start to my NASA career I think. It’s been a crazy 33 year ride so far with no end in sight just yet. I’ve still got a few more years in me, I think!

Thanks for your interest!


Search Engine Section

Feel free to ignore the below section. I’m just repeating the report below in plain text for the benefit of search engines.

Kurt W. Leucht
Electrical Engineering
University of Missouri-Rolla
Failure Analysis & Materials Evaluation (FAME) Branch of the Materials Science Laboratories (MSL)
Branch Chief: Irby Moore
Electronics/Metrology Section 
Section Chief: Gary Bassett
starting wages: $6.98/hr.	ending wages: $7.28/hr.
total earnings: $6650.00	approximate savings: $2500.00
duty hours: 7:00 to 3:30
forwarding address:

Irby Moore
     I was assigned to the Failure Analysis & Materials Evaluation (FAME) branch and worked primarily in the Electronics and Metrology Laboratory since my major is electrical engineering. My principal duties included working with the electrical engineers on failure investigations and managing the video area or Real-Time Documentation Laboratory, which is an integral part of the FAME branch. During my first term I became proficient in the area of television and video technology. The video area in the Electronics and Metrology laboratory is basically a small television studio where it's possible to produce and edit presentations about critical failure investigations. The requester of the investigation can then take this presentation to his/her upper-level management to show them the status of the investigation. It also gives them something to work with while they're waiting for the report from the lab to be published. It's known that a picture is worth a thousand words. In our case, a video is worth a thousand pictures. There are many cases where a stack of pictures can't tell the same story as a short video presentation, so video has become an important part of our failure investigations.
     The video area is also used to generate instant high-resolution photographs from a live camera, a video tape, or our computer generated video. Since these photos can be placed directly into our reports, this capability is used extensively in the laboratory. In my first few months here, I became an expert on photo-documentation from video. I learned about photography and good lighting techniques. I mastered the professional-quality digital camera and the lenses and accessories that go with it. I also became skillful in the use of the computer system that manipulates video images.
     Among my secondary duties was the calibration and maintenance of the video area and all of it's equipment. I've become well-practiced in the area of state-of-the-art digital oscilloscopes and television waveform analyzers/vectorscopes. I did some research into the theory of operation and the testing and calibration of the video equipment before I could understand enough to try troubleshooting problems. I wrote a procedure for the general calibration of the video area so that anyone not completely familiar with every piece of equipment could follow specific instructions and get everything working properly. The procedure was written in a way that was meant to help the person understand how the video system works. I've also been working on a manual to show someone who knows absolutely nothing about the video area how to use the basic functions of most of the equipment in the lab. This will give everyone in the branch the ability to use the video lab.
     By working in other sections of the branch, I've had many chances to work with engineers and technicians from other fields. On several occasions I've gone to the launch pads or to the Orbiter Processing Facilities with the engineers from the Metallurgy Section and helped them take hardness readings on different metal surfaces as part of a failure investigation. In the Mechanical Section I've helped the engineers set up x-ray experiments and film them for future use. In the Physical Testing Section, I've learned how to use the tensile/compression machines and the vacuum chamber. For KSC's Open House, I produced a professional-quality video presentation about the Physical Testing Section's vibration laboratory. Also for Open House, I performed a demonstration on cryogenics and superconductivity throughout the day. In the Electronics and Metrology Section I've done a lot more than just taken pictures. During failure investigations I made electrical test setups from schematics, ran the tests, and helped analyze the data. I've made numerous video presentations for the engineers and requesters of the investigations. I also initiated a system between the lab and the Press Site for obtaining multiple copies of videos for distribution and obtaining high quality scenes of KSC activities for insertion in our productions. I've sent video presentations that were made in the lab over satellites to other centers through the Video Teleconferencing System in the Headquarters Building. I've begun organizing the stock ordering system in the lab and have ordered supplies as needed. I also help write PR's [purchase requests] and SR's [support requests] and have even 'walked through' important PR's
     I have always been interested in space exploration and I've always wanted to work for NASA so that I could be a part of that exploration. In high school, I painted a mural of the space shuttle on the wall of the library. Now that I'm officially a civil servant, although the pay isn't spectacular, it's great to be able to feel like I'm a part of the space program and that I can truly make a difference. While I was here I witnessed two launches from the Vehicle Assembly Building area. I was able to go to the launch pad one morning to watch Discovery being rolled up the ramp to the pad and I even got my picture taken in front of it. I was fortunate enough to get out to the Shuttle Landing Facility and see Discovery land here and I also saw Endeavor fly in atop the new 747 shuttle-craft.
     My experiences here at KSC have helped me gain more understanding of my major field of study. Since most students choose their major during their freshman year, it's often hard for them to understand what's ahead of them. But since I've experienced first-hand what's in my future, I have a choice that most students don't have the chance to make. I have the option to change my major if the work here isn't what I thought it might be. And if I were to choose not to work for NASA, I could take my experience to another employer after I graduate and be a step above the other graduates. If I were to graduate today though, I'd take a job right here in the FAME branch. Being an engineer here in the labs is unique in the fact that it's completely a hands-on experience, not a desk job or a job of looking over a technician's shoulder while they do all the work. That's probably what I like most about the FAME labs. I'm a little excited to get back to school, but I can't wait to come back to KSC and get back to work!

The Right Stuff TV series on Disney+

Did you catch the new 8 episode streaming historical drama series The Right Stuff on Disney+? It premiered on October 9th, 2020 to a bit of fanfare.

From the Disney+ website:

The incredible story of the early days of the U.S. space program, based on the iconic bestseller by Tom Wolfe.

This series is highly fictionalized and dramatized and doesn’t follow the book perfectly. And that’s okay. It’s getting some heat from reviewers in this vein, but I think everyone should just calm down and realize that there was no point in copying the 1983 movie in this new series. This series is not an exact historical account. And who cares? The movie wasn’t either.

If you’re on the fence, this behind the scenes trailer might help get you pumped up for it:

And here’s the official trailer:

Besides being sort of a space nerd myself, the other thing that got me interested in following the production of this new series is that most of it was filmed right in my back yard. Several scenes were filmed on Florida’s Space Coast. And most of the rest was filmed on a soundstage at Universal Studios, Orlando. Additionally there were a few scenes that were filmed in downtown Orlando, Lakeland, and Tampa.

The most amazing thing about this series filming locally is that I had the amazing opportunity to be cast as an extra in several scenes of several episodes. See if you can spot me! Just remember, long haired and bearded hippies weren’t really a big part of the early space program, so imagine me without any facial hair. Type your guesses (episode number and time hack) below in the comments!

Thanks for your interest!


My Trip to Krakow, Poland: The Travel

I just returned from a trip to Krakow, Poland last week where I was speaking at a software developer conference.  I posted details of that experience here.  I also posted details about my sightseeing experiences here.  Then I posted details about all the wonderful food I ate here.  This final post, however, is dedicated to the trip in general.  The flights, the hotel, and other stuff I noticed about Poland and Krakow.

I don’t travel all that much in general, and this is my first time outside of the United States, so I may have been surprised or excited about things that are very common and everyday in Europe or other parts of the world.  So please take that into consideration while reading this.

Here is a photo of the big Lufthansa 747 jumbo jet that took me across the pond.  It was about an 8 hour flight from Orlando to Frankfurt and then another couple hours from Frankfurt to Krakow.  The 8 hour flight started at about 8pm Florida time, so it was an overnight flight.

I chose a window seat towards the very back of the plane.  The Economy class seats were 10 across. 3 seats, aisle, 4 seats, aisle and then 3 seats.  But in the very back where the tail of the airplane starts to get thinner, there were only 8 seats across.  2, 4, 2.  So I chose a window seat where there were only 2 seats to choose from.  My thinking was that the likelihood of another single passenger to take that single seat next to me was less likely than a couple who would take an available 2 seats next to me.  And I was right.  Nobody sat next to me in the aisle seat.

Each seat had a complimentary entertainment system mounted in the forward seat’s headrest.  The system had lots of music, TV shows, and feature films to choose from.  It also included a live animation of the flight as it progressed, which I thought was pretty cool.  Since this was an overnight flight, I didn’t use the entertainment system very much.  I tried to sleep instead.  Poland is 6 hours ahead of Florida, so I tried to go to sleep earlier than normal in order to get used to Poland time.

As I mentioned, there was nobody sitting in the aisle seat next to me, so I tried to lay down across both seats and get some sleep.  I usually don’t have much trouble getting to sleep.  But two seats is just not enough room.  Not even for me.  Not even when curled up into the fetal position.  I tried.  I really tried.  I tried on my back.  On one side.  On the other side.  It just didn’t work.  So I sat upright and slept like pretty much everyone else on the plane.  I ended up getting about 4 to 5 hours of sleep.  Not bad considering the conditions.

Here is a photo of Germany about 30 minutes before we landed in Frankfurt.  You can see quite a few of those giant modern wind turbines down there.

I snapped this photo out the window of what turned out to be Oberwesel, Germany which looks like a cute little village with a cute little port there on a dogleg of the Rhine River.  Click here to explore this area using Google Maps.

We got basically a pilot’s view of the approach on the entertainment system as we came in for a landing in Frankfort.

Once we landed at Frankfort, I had to walk quite a ways around the airport to get to my gate for my flight to Krakow.  And I had to go through immigration, which had quite a long line.  I also had to go through the x-ray scanners again.

Speaking of the x-ray scanners.  I don’t travel much, so forgive me if this is common.  But both Frankfort and Krakow had a nice automated system for getting the plastic bins back to the start of the line after those bins were used to carry bags and purses through the x-ray scanner.  At Orlando, workers have to manually stack up these plastic bins and haul them back around to the start of the line.  A completely manual and highly labor intensive process.

Once I got to my gate in Frankfort for my short flight to Krakow, the gate was automated.  Each passenger just scanned their boarding pass and a little gate opened up for you to walk through.  Pretty cool.  I love automation.  When it works.

So I thought I was walking down a ramp to board my plane to Krakow at this point.  But I was wrong.  I was walking down stairs to a ground level garage of sorts where there were several busses waiting for us to climb aboard.  These busses took us to our planes which were parked way out on the tarmac away from the terminal.  I guess this is necessary if your terminal cannot handle all the planes and flights.  But I thought it was dangerous.  I had already scanned my boarding pass and there was no way to make sure passengers didn’t get on the wrong bus or the wrong plane at this point.  I got on the right bus and the right plane, but there was nothing stopping me from doing otherwise.

Once I arrived in Krakow, there was a car and driver waiting for me holding a sign with my name on it.  That was pretty cool.  He drove me about 20 minutes to the hotel in Krakow and I gave him 2 US dollars as a tip.  He said that was highly uncommon but he was very excited to get it, though.

Checking into the Novotel Hotel Centrum was quick and easy.  Everyone in Poland speaks pretty good English.

When I got on the elevator, I noticed that the lobby floor was labeled floor zero.  This was the only elevator I used during my entire trip, so I don’t know if this was common or not.

I loved the design of the hotel bathroom.  It was very simple and clean.  I loved the fact that the toilet didn’t actually touch the floor.  I’m thinking that this is a more sanitary situation than a toilet that goes down into the floor.

During my 5 day stay in Poland, I noticed that none of the toilets actually touched the floor.  I also noticed that all of the toilets used the water efficient two-button system of flushing.  A small button for number 1 and a large button for number 2.  In theory, this conserves water.  But in practice, I noticed that the light number 1 flush was seriously powerful and used quite a bit of water.  And the number 2 flush was just crazy.  Stand back, people!

I will admit that when I got into my hotel room I had to go to the bathroom in the dark because I could not for the life of me figure out how to turn the lights on. Afterwards, after the pressure was off, I figured out that this little electronic thingy mounted on the wall just inside my hotel room door labeled “Hotelcard” was for me to stick my room key into.  And magically it allowed all the lights, and apparently also the air conditioning, to work!  Genius!

While experiencing Krakow, Poland for nearly a week, this historical dude riding a fake horse kept coming up.  Literally several times each day.  Apparently it’s a Krakow tradition called Lajkonik.  There are several stories and explanations, so I’ll let you read them on your own.

Here is a flight of stairs combined with a ramp for cyclists.  Very cool.

Almost all the streets I encountered while in Krakow are cobblestone.  Some were even quite decorative and beautiful.

One thing I noticed right away when walking around Krakow is that people only cross at marked crosswalks.  I also noticed that there were very few crossing signals for pedestrians.  Like in the photo below.  Pedestrians just wait for a clearing and they go.  And if cars happen upon pedestrians crossing in these marked zones, they always stop.  I get the feeling that if you try to cross outside one of these marked crosswalks, the cars would just run you over, though.

Many Polish words are very close to the English version.  Like “alkohole” for “alcohol”.  The word “alkohole” just cracks me up every time I see it, though.

And here is a selfie I took in the Krakow central town square.  It was chilly that day.  The high was only 60 degF.  Several days while I was there, the high was 75 degF which was unseasonably warm.

I did not drive while I was in Krakow, but I don’t think it would have been bad.  It’s not a very big city and there appeared to be some parking available.  I noticed that gas was about 4 US dollars per gallon, while back in Florida it was right at 2 dollars.  Yes, I did the conversion for liters and also for Polish Zloty.

I didn’t get the green running-man exit signs at first.  Probably because I’m used to exit signs being red instead of green.

One of my random observations of Poland is that everyone there smokes like a chimney.  I didn’t see very many electronic cigarettes.  Just old fashioned tobacco ones.  And lots of them.  Sometimes I even had trouble getting away from the smoke and finding fresh air.

Another random observation is when you order a Coke in a restaurant, you never get a big glass or a big cup like in America.  You get a teeny tiny little 6 or so ounce glass.  Barely enough for a meal.  They drink a lot of water and beer here.  Mostly sparkling water, which I’m not a fan of.

Well, that about covers my trip to Krakow, Poland!  Thanks for your interest!