NASA Engineer Donner Grigsby Gives an Interactive Look at Space Exploration

September 10, 2015


by Michaela Bragg ’17

NASA engineer Donner Grigsby presented students, faculty and community members with a visual and interactive look at space exploration on September 8 in Bridgewater College’s Cole Hall.

Wearing his vibrant blue flight suit, Grigsby first called volunteers on stage to create a working model of the relationship between the sun, the Earth and the moon. With this demonstration, he debunked the common phrase “dark side of the moon,”while establishing a basic understanding of the Earth’s and the moon’s revolutionary and rotational patterns.

Grigsby’s comedic delivery of his lecture—titled “Mission to Mars”—captivated the various age groups present in the audience and presented advanced information in a more digestible way. His discussion covered everything from understanding the electromagnetic spectrum and distance to “putting things in orbit” and living in space. It was all accompanied by astonishing photographs from NASA, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other means.

When he explained the electromagnetic spectrum, Grigsby also described the idea that we identify objects by color because of consensus opinion, meaning we see an object as a particular color because we have always been told it is. Later in his discussion, Grigsby expanded on this concept and its relation to our measurement of time. He said that instead of being merely seconds, time is also a measurement of change.

In addition, Grigsby told the audience about the continuing research regarding how to live in space. This research has been and is still working to prepare humans for what to do when exploration goes farther, whether it’s the moon, Mars or beyond. He included photographs of the construction on the International Space Station.

Finally, he shared images of the dust storms, water and sea salt on the surface of Mars. While telling the story of how a dragging wheel on the rover exposed the salt just under the Martian surface, Grigsby said, “There are three ways we can explore: we go, we send stuff or we watch. We collect stuff by sending toys.”