The Youngest Child has Left Home

Jane Baumann

My husband and I have been lucky to have two wonderful human children, one who is a mechanical engineer living and working in California and the other is in her last year of college (opting not to be an engineer). My husband is Jim Harris, a mechanism design engineer at Lockheed Martin. Jim has also nurtured children of a different type: mechanical conceptions. Specifically, sample collection mechanisms. Although I have had nothing to do with these children, they have been the focus of his attention and consequently the focus of our dinner table conversations for many years.

The most recent child to leave home was TAGSAM, launched into space last week on board NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to begin her 7-year journey to the asteroid Bennu and back home. There have been several articles in the news recently about this mission, but I would like to provide a different perspective. Namely, who is the man behind the Solo cup that the press keeps talking about? Everyone here at CRTech was excited about the launch since our software was used for the thermal design, but our staff members were also excited because of their personal connection with Jim.

With this blog post, I would like to recognize not only the OSIRIS-REx mission, but also Jim’s career working sample return missions. I'd also like to tell you about how he ended up in our driveway with that Solo cup

Stardust was launched in 1999. Its mission was to collect interstellar dust particles, along with particles from the tail of Comet Wild 2, in an attempt to learn more about the nature of comets and, hopefully, the origins of life. In 2006, Stardust returned the samples to Earth, concluding a very successful mission. The Stardust sample return canister (SRC) was given to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 2008. Jim designed a grid system of aerogel which would deploy at specific time intervals to collect the particles. Once the particles embedded themselves in the aerogel, the grid was safely stowed in the SRC. My son, who was in first grade prior to the launch, was perhaps the only kid in the world at that point in time to have the opportunity to share a sample of aerogel at show-and-tell.  

Stardust Sample Collection Grid
Stardust Sample Collection Grid (Photo credit NASA)

Jim was part of the design team for the SRC on the Genesis mission which launched in 2001. Genesis was a mission to collect solar wind particles to aid in the study of the Sun’s composition. This SRC was returned to Earth in 2004, landing at the Utah Testing & Training Range. The mission was a success and scientists were able to retrieve the particles for use in their studies. The sample grid for this mission was comprised of several hexagonal tiles of high purity materials such as sapphire, gold, silicon and carbon.

Genesis Sample Collection

Genesis Hexagonal Collector Array (Photo credit NASA)

Jim eventually joined Dr. Ben Clark and his team at Lockheed Martin performing small study proposals for future NASA missions. While in this group, Ben handed Jim a background paper and asked if he could use it to come up with an idea to collect regolith (loose surface material) from an asteroid.

Jim came home and spent the weekend in his shop with assistance from our son (then in 6th grade) prototyping and testing concepts for collecting dirt from our gravel driveway. One of these concepts was tested using a Solo cup and an air filter from a garden tractor.

Over the next few years, there were multiple proposals, study contracts, and zero-g flights, all nurturing the development of the TAGSAM (Touch-and-go Sample Acquisition Mechanism). Eventually Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract to build the spacecraft and TAGSAM. At this point, Jim joined the OSIRIS-REx team to follow through with the care of his mechanical child.

TAGSAM Deployment Test

Lockheed Martin TAGSAM Deployment Test (photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Jim Harris Holding TAGSAM (photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Last week Jim and I celebrated the beginning of TAGSAM’s celestial journey with a dinner of grilled steak, greens from our garden, and a nice bottle of cabernet sauvignon from the wine cellar. Of course, both kids called home to congratulate their dad.

While we wait for TAGSAM’s arrival at the asteroid Bennu, Jim will continue tinkering in his shop. He will be working on projects such as rocket stoves and Stirling engines, and of course trying to get me to create Thermal Desktop models for all his crazy ideas.

Recently, Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, had an asteroid named for Jim. (He also did this for other key OSIRIS-REx players.) I consider this to be scientific proof that Jim is a rock, specifically my rock: stable, dependable, and often stubborn. It is reassuring to know that long after we leave this physical place, Jim’s presence will remain in this solar system, watching over his children.

FloCAD online training

Class times: May 2 & 4 from 10am to 2pm MT

Cost: $425

This online class will provide an introduction to fluid modeling components within FloCAD. The class will be held over a 2-day period, with daily sessions running approximately 4 hours each. The class uses a mixture of lecture, demonstrations, and self-paced tutorials to allow attendees to practice building fluid system models and interpreting results. The presentations will comprise 2 - 3 hours of each session, and the instructor will be available during the remainder of the time for questions during tutorials. Attendees must have basic working knowledge of SINDA and Thermal Desktop as these topics will not be covered but their usage is required for FloCAD.

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Thermal Desktop, RadCAD, and TD Direct in-class training

Date: April 25-28, 2017, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., daily
Location: Lakewood, CO

CRTech will be hosting introductory training for Thermal Desktop, RadCAD and TD Direct. Lecture and hands-on tutorials introduce attendees to basic Thermal Desktop and RadCAD usage and allow practice building models and interpreting results. The class will also introduce students to SpaceClaim direct modeling CAD interface and advanced meshing tools in TD Direct.

Daily Schedule

Day 1 and 2: Introduction to SINDA and Thermal Desktop
Day 3: Introduction to RadCAD
Day 4: Introduction to TD Direct

To learn more about this class and to register, visit our Training Page.

Anode and cathode of a flow battery

Using Sinaps? It is not too soon to get started with TD/FloCAD!

This webinar describes the process for converting from Sinaps to Thermal Desktop (TD) and FloCAD. This process includes using an exporter which works with Version 6.0 of the CRTech tool suite (expected to be released in May of 2017).

Come learn about the basics of TD/FloCAD, including many compelling features not available in Sinaps. The webinar will also cover how to manage the transition period, during which you may be using both programs simultaneously. This is also a chance to ask questions. 

If you missed this webinar, please contact us for the presentation material and recording.