A visit to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre enabled Dr Arthur Shelley to explore innovative technologies that could assist the future of humanity.
Dr Arthur Shelley, a Property Construction and Project Management Senior Industry Fellow, facilitated a high performing teams workshop at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre for the Instrument Systems and Technology Division in June 2015. He was treated to a personalised tour of the facilities where NASA designs, tests and builds the satellites and instruments it carries.
During his visit, Shelley was able to see firsthand how essential it is for everything going into the satellites, from detectors to instrumentation to communications, to be reliable. He was also stepped through the challenges of building satellites that will withstand extreme temperatures, absolute vacuum and risk of debris impact, yet are still lightweight. Research surrounding such challenges, including building design features and methods of testing, has provided important insights to assist building technology on Earth.
Shelley was also introduced to The James Webb Space Telescope, to be launched in 2017. The telescope houses a unique technology allowing areas of the telescope detector to be remotely switched on and off down to nanometre areas. This enables scientists on Earth to focus in on single photons of light, which can be amplified while removing the ‘noise’. The technology works like a set of nano-louvres on a CD-like disc, which open and shut by managing the currents across a grid of cells ‘printed’ into the detector surface. The creation and testing of these prototype units demands absolute cleanliness and sub-microscopic precision. Shelley was required to be in a cleanroom within two other cleanrooms to look at nano-louvres in action on a prototype under the microscope.
Investing in research surrounding these kinds of technologies enables humans to learn more about what is in the universe and may even provide alternative options for humans to live, should we ever need to construct new cities on other planets.
Shelley's research on increasing performance through building stronger and more collaborative relationships in project teams was shared in the workshop with 35 NASA engineers and scientists. They explored the behavioural profiles of their own teams through the use of The Organizational Zoo metaphor and 'Conversations That Matter'. These techniques enabled them to share and make use of the diversity of perspectives in the room about team dynamics and how to interact more productively.