In late March I had the opportunity to participate in Advanced PoSSUM Academy at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. This academy is run through Project PoSSUM, an organization that focuses on studying a special type of cloud called noctilucent clouds (NLCs), which give clues about climate change. The best way to study these clouds is from space, so PoSSUM is training citizen scientists to go on polar suborbital missions to collect data about NLCs. The Academy gave me training to do these missions, but to actually go on these suborbital missions, one needs to have a Bachelor of Science degree. Until then, I can help Project PoSSUM prepare for these missions on the ground by testing equipment such as space suits.
Every day at PoSSUM we did different training activities. The first day was all lecture based. We learned about the upper mesosphere, how to get and interpret data from NLCs, as well as space physiology. The second day we had hypoxia training to prepare us to recognize our personal symptoms in a low oxygen environment. During the lab, my chest got warm, my feet got cold, and I had impaired judgement. The next day we had space suit training, where we tested actual space suits and did a simulated polar suborbital mission to space to study NLCs. We got to use real imaging equipment and the simulation gave a good idea of what the PoSSUM missions would be like. On the last full day, I did a high G flight mission in an Extra 300 plane. We practiced breathing techniques to mitigate the effects of high G and did different maneuvers such as flips and parabolas which allowed me to experience 0 G like in space! I even got to fly the plane for a little bit.
Besides the training, one of the best parts about PoSSUM was the people. My classmates where from around the world: Canada, USA, India, Venezuela, Chile, and Norway. One of the best things was when we would all go out to dinner after a long day and I would hear conversations going on in four different languages. Everyone was always trying to learn bits and pieces of new languages and was interested in learning about different cultures. Even though I was the youngest member, everyone was very supportive. We would form study groups, go out to eat, go swimming, and chill around Embry Riddle’s campus in our free time. We all got close and I had the pleasure of getting to know everyone in my group really well. PoSSUM Academy was an incredible experience! To learn more about PoSSUM, visit their site: https://projectpossum.org/
Post by Becca Blum