Larry Galloway ’14 (Norristown, Pa.) recently combined his fascination with materials science, his passion for photography, and his interest in space travel during an internship at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
Located in Huntsville, Ala., the huge base is primarily responsible for NASA’s rocket and robotics development and climate research.
Galloway, a mechanical engineering major, worked in the “high bay,” a five-story room about the size of a football field, and researched friction stir welding. This process is used to build the outer casings of the next generation of space rockets. Metal is heated through friction and pressure, causing it to plasticize and flow. The bay is filled with massive friction stir welding machines, some of which are fully automated to weld enormous sections of rocket.
“When I saw where I was going to work, my breath was taken away. Literally. When you speak in this room, you don’t hear your voice echo the way it normally does,” Galloway says.
During his internship, he welded test panels under the guidance of his mentor and two technicians, and coordinated the use of a high-speed camera during the welds.
“This is the part of my project that was truly exciting; no one had taken high-speed images of this process before,” he says.
Galloway also worked with delicate instruments and toured many other areas of Marshal Space Flight Center, including the wind tunnel where winds can reach speeds of mach 3, a virtual environments lab, and the Saturn V test stand. He and other interns in his department went to the Kennedy Flight Center to see an Atlas V launch.
“My time [there] really helped me get a better understanding of exactly the sort of amazing things that are out there to work on,” he says. “I cannot say enough how helpful the people were in this regard…I gained a much better understanding of mechanical engineering.”