Goddard Space Flight Center– Satellite-based Earth Gravity Mapping in Intern
June 6, 2022 – August 12, 2022
Final goals of your project/s:
Create a python package for interpreting GRACE and GRACE Follow-On data in an open, cloud-based environment.
1: Integration of Geodesy and Geophysics Lab surface mass change estimation tools into cloud based SMCE JupyterHub environment. Tasks: Migrate and version control current code base. Ensure input datas are properly logged in AWS S3 Buckets and readable in the JupyterHub environment. Test and benchmark new integration.
2: Partner with Geodesy and Geophysics Lab scientists to test new application of mass change tools. Tasks: Devise new estimation procedures and science questions.
NASA Internships Summer 2022 Intern Project Plan. Build out new procedures for answering said science questions.
3: Build new visualization tools onto the cloud platform. Tasks: Create a regional analysis and mapping plotting suite. Further develop interactive platform.
Describe what you did during the internship:
• Developed Python toolbox for analyzing and visualizing GRACE satellite derived terrestrial water storage and time-variable gravity data products.
• Incorporated least squares estimation systems, hydrological basin analysis, and mapping software into comprehensive object-oriented toolbox.
• Performed trend and seasonal basin analyses with toolbox to investigate hydrologic and cryospheric signals of interest, including large river basin water storage tracking and mass loss estimation for the Antarctic Ice Sheet.
• Integrated version-controlled toolbox into AWS-based JupyterHub environment to enable collaborative cloud-based scientific exploration and discovery.
• Explored and tested options for interactive data exploration add-on tool.
• Worked alongside time-variable gravity and estimation experts in the Geodesy and Geophysics Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Did you achieve your goals? What were the results?:
We certainly did! This tool has explored the many possibilities of displaying and analyzing data in a python JupyterHub environment, as well as working with cloud based datasets. We learned about the flexibility and capabilities of working in the cloud. Creating a new interactive notebook that allows any user with a little python experience to manipulate and work with GRACE and GRACE Follow On data extends the reach of NASA and it’s mission to put science into more people’s hands. Most of the math and analysis tools already used by the lab needed manipulation and recreation to integrate them into the cloud, but the end result works very well and leaves a great starting point for further development and migration of results into the cloud. It was a great step forward (Albeit a small contribution in comparison) for the team and code 600 to extend the reach of earth science to more and more folks who may not know the complex inter workings of Geodesy and Geophysics, let alone GRACE. Many lab members do not know python very well or the specifics of the mass-team’s results, and this tool prevents a large amount of headache that would otherwise present itself when having to learn a new language. Instead they can read and use the information right away using a tool that was developed alongside industry leading geodesy experts and readily available in the cloud.
Describe positive lessons learned:
Python is incredibly easy to use and was a breeze to pick back up the more I used it. I came into this project with experience in python a few years back but found out rather quickly the fundamentals of “use it or lose it”. I programmed a lot in MATLAB and the syntax is different, but the foundations mostly carried over. A lot of the issues I encountered were, as one would assume, somewhere between the chair and the keyboard.
Besides learning tons of incredibly invaluable python and programming skills I learned about the science that goes into what I am making this tool for. The applied complex math (Geodesy) that it takes to plot and measure things on the Earth is astounding.
How GRACE monitors mass changes due to gravity pulling on two separate satellites and measuring the distance change is genius and absolutely fascinating. I was additionally intrigued by Topex/Poseiden, and the JSON spacecrafts while working with this team.
As a senior in aerospace engineering, I was unaware of the depth of earth sciences here at Goddard. This experience has opened my eyes to a uniquely fascinating field of science. Climate change is a very real issue and watching the data files turn into the maps I see in front of me truly paints a picture of the changing environment.
Finally, I learned what it was like to work for NASA, the work-life balance, the meetings, the research talks, and most of all, the achievements. Seeing the first images of Webb while also being able to work at Goddard is awe inspiring.
Describe negative lessons learned:
Unfortunately the government and it’s agencies can be slow and full of red-tape. It definitely showed during the first weeks of my internship while I was trying to get set up. I was badged on site and needed this badge to access my computer and various other agency websites/work environments to complete my work. They couldn’t print it before I had to return to Iowa and stated they would “mail it to me soon”. They never sent it and kicked the can down the road, following up every week by email yielded a “We will look into it”. Not until I was a week from my end time, they got back to me to say they can’t ship it now because I would have to send it right back once it arrived. However, because I was expected to have a badge, my computer was set up to require it and I couldn’t access anything for over a week until the proper paperwork and changes were in place for me to access my laptop.
So that was a large lesson in flexibility, and to still get work done even though other circumstances made that difficult.