News

SDL celebrates 50th anniversary

By Kim Burgess
The Herald Journal
August 9, 2009
Brian Wallace was one of four skydivers that performed during an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Space Dynamics Lab on Saturday afternoon.

Eli Lucero/Herald Journal
Brian Wallace was one of four skydivers that performed during an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Space Dynamics Lab on Saturday afternoon.

Blaine Esplin builds a rocket with his son Matthew Esplin during an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Space Dynamics Lab on Saturday afternoon.

Eli Lucero/Herald Journal
Blaine Esplin, right, builds a rocket with his son Matthew Esplin during an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Space Dynamics Lab on Saturday afternoon.

NORTH LOGAN – Three‐year‐old Jackson Badger smiled as he watched a Space Dynamics Lab “mad scientist” make him a cup of slime by mixing several chemicals.

“He’s having a great time,” said Jackson’s mother, Shelley Badger.

“There are a lot of fun things here.”

The slime demonstration was just one of several hands‐on science projects available for kids at SDL’s 50th anniversary celebration Saturday.

Employees at SDL, which is owned by Utah State University, estimated that about 1,200 people attended the firstever event, which included activities like model rocket launches and liquid nitrogen demonstrations.

“We are very pleased with the turnout,” said Pat Patterson, SDL’s director of technology innovation. “We are happy to show the public what we do. We think some of the things we do are pretty cool, but we haven’t had the opportunity to open up to the public like this.”

Judging from the ohhs and ahhs of attendees, many of them would seem to agree that space research is pretty cool.

One popular display featured SDL employees stirring liquid nitrogen into sundae mix to make ice cream. The nitrogen boils off into the air and doesn’t leave any residual flavor.

Inside the SDL’s Calibration Facility, employees manned information booths describing the lab’s many projects. Visitors could see satellites and other machinery created by the SDL engineers.

Jackson Badger’s uncle, SDL electrical engineer Jason Swasey, had helped assemble a number of the displays and invited his sister and nephew to see them.

Swasey said he was glad that the next generation of scientists and engineers got the chance to learn about the lab and careers in space research.

He recalled his own introduction to the lab about 15 years ago shortly after he arrived at USU.

“I got lucky and got hired on here as a freshman,” Swasey said. “I absolutely love it. It’s the best job in the world. When I graduated, I had a ton of job offers but I said I’d just stay here. It’s perfect.”

Patterson commented that he hopes some of the young visitors to the celebration will follow Swasey and pursue a career at SDL.

I’ve talked to several kids who wanted to know what they should do with their lives if they wanted to work at a place like this,” he said. “It was exciting to see them thinking about their futures.”

So what do they do at SDL?

  • Founded in 1959, the Space Dynamics Lab (SDL) is a nonprofit research corporation owned by Utah State University and operates as a unit of the USU Research Foundation.
  • SDL has worked on more than 400 research payloads ranging from rocket‐borne sensors to space shuttle experiments and satellite systems.
  • The lab’s research falls into three categories: general discovery, national security and global climate change. Studies look into atmospheric physics, astronomy, remote sensing and defense systems.
  • Prominent SDL projects include SOFIE (Solar Occulation for Ice Experiment), a sensor that studies clouds high in the atmosphere, which are thought to indicate global climate change; WISE (Wide‐field Infrared Survey Explorer), a telescope that will survey the entire sky, providing a complete stellar infrared map that is a thousand times more detailed than previous surveys; and EyePod, a 25‐pound reconnaissance camera for unmanned aerial vehicles, which can be used for surveillance of war zones.

© 2009 The Herald Journal