On Nov. 1, 2011 KelliAnn Anderson, ’14, and other members of the 2011 Carthage Microgravity Team were featured guests at a dinner meeting of the Racine American Association of University Women. At the meeting KelliAnn shared her experience about joining the team as a freshman. Here’s what she had to say.
I was a freshman at Carthage last year when I worked on the 2011 Carthage Microgravity Team. I wanted to tell you about my experience being a new team member, and what I learned through my first year working in this program.
I was first introduced to space science as a young kid, through a NASA-funded outreach program called NASA Explorer Schools. It’s one of many ways that NASA tries to engage young kids in science and engineering by providing teaching material about these areas and providing access to some NASA’s facilities. It gave me my first taste of NASA, and I’ve been hooked ever since. In fact, Carthage’s strong Physics Department and, specifically, their established Microgravity Team were major deciding factors in my decision to come to Carthage. I had an unquenchable thirst to be a part of this team.
So there I was — a shy 18-year-old, fresh out of high school in my little town of 2,000 people, wanting to help with this serious college-level experiment. It was only my fifth day of classes when we had our first meeting in September of last year. I sat around the table with all of these upperclassmen, just sort of minding my own business, feeling like I was somehow encroaching upon their territory. They were all having a good time, laughing and talking about people I didn’t know, and science things I didn’t understand, and I was just sitting there, all nervous and quiet but excited at the same time.
Before I knew it — and this is the only thing I really remember about this meeting — Dr. Crosby was talking about the project. He said that being on this team was going to consume our souls, and that we were going to lose all of our friends because all of our time was going to be spent working on this project. And that our grades were going to suffer. And all this other horrible stuff.
And I became absolutely terrified. I felt like I was being told that my life was basically over.
However, what this served to make me, even more than horrified, was confused. Right after he said this, he and all the upperclassmen started laughing.
I had no idea what was going on. It was like some kind of physics inside joke that I just did not get. But it didn’t stop me. This was something I had been wanting for years. So I jumped right in, and I experienced it first-hand.
I had my soul crushed in the windowless basement lab we built our fuel gauge in. From January until our Flight Week in April, I worked with my teammates on this project, fixing something here, then seeing something break over THERE and fixing THAT, which would in turn break the thing we fixed in the first place, and this whole cycle would just keep going on and on.
But when it was all said and done, when all the tears had been shed and every last soul ground to a pulp, and the experiment was built and fully operational, we flew down to Houston and gave NASA the fruits of our labor.
It was beyond my expectations to be complimented as much as we were. I mean, this was NASA. Patting us on the back and saying “Good job, guys!” And watching our experiment fly off in that plane is a sight I’m not going to forget.
We recently had our first team meeting of the year again, and Dr. Crosby gave the exact same spiel. And when he was finished, I found myself laughing along with everyone else. And I finally understood why. It wasn’t a kind of inside joke, or a mean scare tactic, because it was 100 percent true.
But after experiencing all of those things down in Houston, I finally realized that, even though it may be true, and we lost a part of our lives to this project, it was absolutely worth it, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
KelliAnn Anderson was a member of the Carthage Microgravity Team again in 2012, and had the opportunity to fly aboard the zero-g aircraft. See photos and coverage of the trip.