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CHRIS: Hey, welcome to NASA EDGE.
JACKY: An inside and outside look…
FRANKLIN: …at all things NASA.
BLAIR: Oh, that’s going to leave a mark.[music]
CHRIS: You’re watching the best of NASA EDGE Live, STS-135.
BLAIR: But first, Lori Garber and Laurie Leshin talk about the future of NASA after the shuttle.[music]
CHRIS: Lori, thank you for joining us today. STS-135 is about to launch. It ends a great era for the shuttle program, for 30 years. Now we’re looking to the next generation. What’s on tap for human exploration?
LORI: Well, NASA, of course, celebrates the Space Shuttle Program. It has given us so much as a nation and as an agency. And we’re going to take that program and what we have learned, and the development of the International Space Station that it has launched every piece of and go beyond low-earth orbit again as we explore deep space. NASA has been given the mandate by President Obama of going to an asteroid with a human for the first time by 2025 and onward to Mars in the 2030s. We will continue to utilize the Space Station and we’re tapping into that innovative spirit of America with the private industry. We really look forward to continuing to be able to have our astronauts launch to and from the International Space Station from here in the United States. And do that at a cost that is less of a percentage of the NASA budget than it is now, so we can focus on doing those hard things like going beyond low-earth orbit.
BLAIR: I want to know more about what this flexible path is. Because it sounds like there are lots of options and I’m big on options because I want to be a medianaut and I’d like to get into space somehow. I’m hoping that the flexibility of the flexible path maybe has some options for someone like myself. What do you think?
LORI: Well, everyone has an angle. I think that’s going to be a good one for you. The flexible path is all about developing the capabilities to go further. NASA needs to invest in reducing the operations cost of what we have been doing for 50 years now, launching people to and from space; doing that with the private sector where maybe a medianaut might be able to get a ride.
CHRIS: Is that a full endorsement by the way?
BLAIR: I’m interpreting that as an endorsement.
LORI: And that will get you so far.[laughing]
BLAIR: I’ll take it as far as I can.
LORI: But the flexible path develops the capabilities to go further faster. If we lower the cost of space transportation and develop technologies for in-space propulsion that can reduce the time for traveling to places like Mars or if we can develop technologies for things like on-orbit fuel transfer, we will be able to go more places faster than we could if we set just a destination at a specific point in time. In Apollo, that’s what we did. President Kennedy laid out that we were going to go to the moon within 10 years. We have been trying to relive Apollo at NASA for 40 years. Apollo really was successful because of the Cold War. NASA now represents that peaceful cooperation we have on this planet. The fact that we represented the Cold War and now have forged this partnership with Russia, I think we can take advantage of the cooperation of other nations and develop a true space fearing capability.
CHRIS: That’s why we’re gearing towards this commercial space for those companies to get us to ISS and to low-earth orbit and then we can focus on space beyond low-earth orbit.
LORI: That is absolutely our plan. I hate to have people think that there won’t be anything else for NASA to do in low-earth orbit. We have the International Space Station. We’ve extended it at least until 2020 and we really hope the commercial capacity to go to and from will help us develop things on the Space Station that we will learn about being able to go further. We are working with other government agencies like NIH, and investing in the ability to develop vaccines in space and different manufacturing types of technologies that could really, really benefit all of us on this planet.
CHRIS: When did it kick in that you were the Deputy Administrator for NASA?
LORI: It’s not really something you can think much about before it happens. Because while I was working on the transition team, I was very focused on doing that job well but when Charlie Bolden and I went through meetings with the Senators before our confirmation hearing, it was a great thing. I have often said that while the process of being Senate confirmed is a stressful one, I highly recommend if you’re going to do it go through it with Charlie Bolden because he is not a stressed individual. Of course, I’m the deputy and he’s the administrator so he got all the hard questions. But Charlie had been nominated to be Deputy Administrator previously and had gone through all these Senate meetings in advance of the hearings. We would have dinner at night and he would say, Well, we never know how it’s going to turn out because your name could be pulled right before the hearing. So it was the morning of the hearing really, I looked at Charlie and he said to me, “This is real. This is really going to happen.” Senator Nelson actually called me personally right before the vote and said, I’m putting you guys up for vote right now.
LORI: It was a really, really a wonderful, wonderful thing. We were sworn in the next day.
CHRIS: Wow! That’s a great story.
LORI: I don’t think I’ve been asked that before.
CHRIS: There’s a rumor out there.
LORI: Just one?
CHRIS: There’s a rumor out there that you are in charge of the NASA football with all the launch codes for the launch vehicles. You get to push the button for shuttle, Atlas, Delta, the whole nine-yards. Is that true?
LORI: We are not allowed to talk about the NASA football.
BLAIR: Is there a NASA football? That confirms there is a NASA football.
LORI: My executive officer does refer to my purse as his “man bag/football.” I believe that’s where the rumor started. And you can look through the “man bag/football” and look for the codes…
CHRIS: Ok, interesting.
LORI: …and see if you think that rumor is true.
BLAIR: I can’t. I can’t look through the bag; too stressful.
LAURIE: I think we’re looking at a really bright future for human space flight. In my mind, the exciting thing is we have in place all the pieces we need to be successful going forward. We’ve got a plan for low-earth orbit that is to maximize the heck out of using that space station; to learn about going beyond low-earth orbit. We’re going to get our commercial partners up and running to supply it and bring people. We’ve got the rocket and capsule underway that are going to replace the shuttle to take humans beyond low-earth orbit. And we’ve got the research and technology that we need to get us beyond. So, I think we’ve got all the pieces. Now we’ve got to put them together and make the go.
CHRIS: Can you talk briefly about the CCDev-2 program?
LAURIE: We have four commercial partners working with us on CCDev-2. We have SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin, and… oh my…
CHRIS: Sierra Nevada.
LAURIE: Sierra Nevada, I knew I was going to forget one as soon as I got on camera.
BLAIR: I always wanted to say Sierra Nevada.
LAURIE: Sierra Nevada, not the beer but the space…exactly. The great thing is they’re working on all sorts of different vehicles. We’ve got capsules, wing vehicles. We’re covering our bases in terms of starting to be investors in these companies to bring a new capability for our nation online. It’s going to very exciting to watch them race to the finish.
CHRIS: We asked Lori in her segment if she would be willing to go into space as the first Deputy Director. What about you? Would you be willing to go into space?
LAURIE: I would love to go into space. For me, I’m a little too young to remember Apollo but what drew me to space was seeing the Viking Lander images of the surface of Mars and I really wanted to reach out and touch those rocks. I’m a geologist and this to me was very exciting. I will tell you I would be throwing up the entire time. It just would not be good. It wouldn’t work, so I have settled for trying to help the space program in other ways.
BLAIR: Chronic throwing up not a good quality for an astronaut.
LAURIE: You know, I’m admitting it on camera. That probably blows my chances completely to be the first woman on Mars.
CHRIS: What are some of the technologies? They are going beyond low-earth orbit. We want to go that near Earth object, maybe an asteroid, onto Mars. Technology is going to be important to get us there.
LAURIE: Absolutely. We talked a little bit about the rocket and capsule and those are required to get beyond low-earth orbit but they are not all we need. We need more. We need advanced habitation systems and life support systems and new extra-vehicular activity suits, new spacewalking suits that we can get into and out of quickly. All kinds of capabilities, we need new in-space propulsion systems. We’ve got our new program in exploration called Advanced Exploration Systems that is going to allow us to leverage, frankly, some of the workforce coming off the shuttle to help us start doing hands on work building these new capabilities in house at NASA. We’re very excited about that.
BLAIR: I think that is a good direction clearly. And I think if you need a model, a test subject, if you will, for any advance human space flight, I’m open-minded. I’m very open-minded in that regard.
LAURIE: Okay, good to know.
BLAIR: I could be a medianaut and support your every need in that area.
LAURIE: Excellent. We will keep that in mind. I’m going to write that down as soon as I get off camera. I could think of some, yeah, interesting tests we could send you on.
BLAIR: I’m missing out on the science area.
LAURIE: We could train you up. We’ll just take you in the field just like they did the Apollo astronauts; only one of them was a scientist. They went to the moon and did amazing things for science.
BLAIR: My brand new best friend, ladies and gentlemen. This is great. I love the way this is going.
CHRIS: Up next, one of the youngest guests ever on NASA EDGE, Elmo.
BLAIR: A fellow redhead from Sesame Street.
CHRIS: He’s also shorter than you are and he can count higher.
BLAIR: Wow, that’s just wrong.
BLAIR: We’re actually glad for the warmth because that means the sun is out and it means we might actually be able to launch today.
ELMO: Oh, we will launch.
BLAIR: Oh, love your optimism.
CHRIS: Are you excited about the Space Shuttle launch?
ELMO: Oh, Elmo is very, very excited because Elmo only watches this on TV. So, to be here is really exciting.
BLAIR: Awesome! You’ve seen a shuttle launch but never one in person.
BLAIR: Oh, how exciting.
ELMO: Have you?
BLAIR: Yes, I’ve seen two I believe. Three.
CHRIS: Three, yeah.
BLAIR: This will be my fourth.
ELMO: That’s cool.
BLAIR: Yeah, it’s very cool.
ELMO: And this one is called Atlantis.
CHRIS & BLAIR: Very good!
ELMO: Elmo learned that they’re named after ships.
BLAIR: That’s correct.
CHRIS: That’s very good.
ELMO: But why?
BLAIR: Oh, because they’re like ships.
CHRIS: That’s a good question.
BLAIR: And ships use to…
ELMO: Oh, they’re like ships?
BLAIR: Yeah, the old ships…
ELMO: But they’re not on the water.
ELMO: They go up in the air.
CHRIS: That’s right and they go up into space.
ELMO: Yeah, so that’s the difference.
BLAIR: That’s one of the differences. Yes.
ELMO: And Elmo has, what is it, 135 flights on the shuttle program.
ELMO: That’s a lot.
CHRIS: Would you like to go into space one day?
ELMO: Oh, I would love to! Have you been there?
CHRIS: Well, we don’t know about him. He’s from parts unknown.
ELMO: Oh really.
CHRIS: In fact, I have a question for you.
ELMO: Okay, go ahead. Shoot.
CHRIS: He’s got red hair and we were wondering if there is any…maybe you guys are related somehow?
ELMO: Well, it’s not red enough. No.
BLAIR: Believe me. And it’s getting less red all the time.
BLAIR: Yeah, age does that to you. I’m like forty something.
BLAIR: Yeah, old.
ELMO: You know Elmo went inside the Space Shuttle Discovery.
ELMO: It was really cool.
BLAIR: How did you do that?
ELMO: Well, they let Elmo in. Ha ha. Ya know, Elmo met a lot of nice people at NASA too.
CHRIS: Who are some cool people that you’ve met so far?
ELMO: Well, I met Mr. Mike Massimino.
BLAIR: We love Mr. Mike.
ELMO: Oh, Elmo got to meet his daughter too.
BLAIR: Oh, she’s nice too.
CHRIS: He’s a crazy astronaut, isn’t he?
ELMO: No, he’s really funny.
CHRIS: He’s funny, isn’t he?
BLAIR: He’s also tall.
ELMO: Yeah. And you know, Elmo didn’t know they use Math and Science every day.
BLAIR: All the time.
ELMO: They have careers as scientists, engineers, and, of course, astronauts.[Blair laughing]
CHRIS: And technology.
ELMO: It’s cool.
CHRIS: So you like Math and Science?
ELMO: Yes, Elmo does. Elmo loves counting.
CHRIS: How high can you count?
ELMO: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. That’s it.
BLAIR: Very good.
CHRIS: That’s faster than you.
BLAIR: Yeah, and probably more accurate.
ELMO: Who is this?
CHRIS: We wanted to have you meet Spooner.
ELMO: Hello Spooner.
CHRIS: He doesn’t really talk though.
ELMO: Yeah, Elmo can’t hear anything from him.
CHRIS: Spooner is our mascot and he comes with us everywhere we go.
ELMO: What’s a mascot?
CHRIS: Well, he represents our program. He’s a very cool guy. He goes everywhere. He gets in trouble quite a bit.
CHRIS: Yeah, we always have to discipline him everywhere we go because he’s always hanging around, climbing onto things.
BLAIR: He loves bananas.
CHRIS: Loves bananas.
BLAIR: If you leave a banana out at breakfast and you turn away, and you come back, it’s gone. He’s had the banana.
ELMO: How many… Elmo thinks it’s four astronauts going up.
CHRIS: It’s four astronauts. Yes.
ELMO: Is that normally the only count? You can’t get more or less.
CHRIS: Actually no. For this mission, there’s only four but usually it’s around seven astronauts.
ELMO: Well, why four this time?
CHRIS: Well, why four is because we are carrying up more equipment this time. In fact,…
ELMO: Oh, so you need room for other things.
CHRIS: Plus, this is the last shuttle mission. So in case something happens with the shuttle we don’t have more astronauts to leave on Station.
BLAIR: They’re bringing back some stuff too.
CHRIS: That’s right.
BLAIR: Yes, they’re replacing a pump of some kind. I believe they’re bringing it back. They don’t want to leave it out in space anymore so they bring it back and study it.
ELMO: Where are they getting it from?
BLAIR: From the ISS.
CHRIS: The International Space Station.
ELMO: Thank you.[laughing]
ELMO: ISS, Elmo thought that was a hotel or something.
BLAIR: Well, it’s kind of like a hotel.
CHRIS: One day Elmo, we may have hotels in space. Imagine that?
ELMO: No! Really?
CHRIS: Can you imagine taking a vacation one day where you just call up and you may have a hotel or something?
ELMO: Hey, let’s go to a Holiday Inn or something in space.
CHRIS: You could. You could book a weekend getaway.
ELMO: That would be cool!
CHRIS: It would.
BLAIR: Yeah. And with the miles you have to fly to get there, you would earn your room. You probably wouldn’t even have to pay for it.
CHRIS: Yeah, it would be free space miles.
ELMO: Elmo heard something about a ladder. They were talking about building a ladder that could go all the way in space.
CHRIS: Oh, the space elevator.
BLAIR: Yeah, the space elevator. Very good.
CHRIS: It would take a long time to climb up it, wouldn’t it?
ELMO: How would you build something like that?
BLAIR: Well, that’s a good question.
CHRIS: It’s somebody above my pay grade who would be able to do that.
ELMO: Oh, okay.
CHRIS: Maybe you can help out one day.
ELMO: Elmo would love to.
CHRIS: Because of all that science, math, and technology that you’re going to be learning.
BLAIR: That’s what you have to do. You have to study in school. Don’t do what I did and play all the time. You’ve got to actually apply yourself, learn your math and science.
ELMO: Yeah. Elmo learned that when it goes up it actually lands back here in Florida.
BLAIR: Yeah, isn’t that neat?
CHRIS: It sure does.
ELMO: That’s cool!
BLAIR: Isn’t it? It doesn’t’ have to land in Florida.
ELMO: Elmo heard that too. It could land in California too.
CHRIS: Absolutely. Then it gets on board a 747, a big jumbo jet, and it flies back over to Kennedy.
ELMO: That’s how it gets back here?
CHRIS & BLAIR: Yeah.
ELMO: Wow! That’s cool! Elmo didn’t know that.
CHRIS: Isn’t it? Maybe we’ll show you the aircraft one day.
ELMO: That would be cool.
CHRIS: Maybe you can fly in it.
BLAIR: It is really cool. It is really an awesome vehicle.
BLAIR: Because inside there aren’t seats like in a regular airplane you fly on. It’s all empty because it had to be reinforced to carry the shuttle back and forth.
BLAIR: Really fun stuff.
ELMO: This is really fascinating.
CHRIS: But you’re well on your way Elmo because you’ve already got your flight suit on. You’ve got your hat.
ELMO: Yeah, they made this for me. Isn’t that cool?
CHRIS: You’re ready to go.
ELMO: And I’ve even got the orange one too; the orange flight suit.
BLAIR: Yeah, the Desert Rats one.
ELMO: The one that they… like that, the orange one.
ELMO: Like your friend has on.
BLAIR: That’s the Desert Rats uniform.
ELMO: Why do they call it that?
BLAIR: Well, it’s the Desert Research…
CHRIS: He’s talking about the orange flight suits on the shuttle.
BLAIR: Oh, sorry.
CHRIS: Yeah, sorry.
BLAIR: I’m sorry.
CHRIS: He wasn’t paying attention to you.
ELMO: False information.[Chris laughing]
BLAIR: It’s actually not false information because the ones they use aren’t like the flightsuit material. They’ve got all the valves and gadgets.
ELMO: Hey, no arguing. Okay? No arguing.
BLAIR: Hey Elmo, do you do counseling?
ELMO: No. [giggling] No.
CHRIS: Elmo, we’re so glad you had a chance to stop by with us today.
ELMO: Oh, thanks for having Elmo.
CHRIS: We hope you enjoy the launch…
ELMO: Oh, Elmo is.
CHRIS: …in the next half hour.
CHRIS: Are you going to scream really loud when it goes up?
ELMO: Of course! Elmo is going to say, “Bye. See you soon.”
CHRIS: Are you going to do the countdown for us when they get to 10?
ELMO: Yes, Elmo can’t wait to do that.
CHRIS: Why don’t you do a practice for the audience and us.
ELMO: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blast off!
CHRIS: There you go.[rocket noises]
ELMO: We even have sound effects.[laughing]
ELMO: Okay, Elmo is going to go see his Mommy and Daddy now, okay?
CHRIS: Okay Elmo.
BLAIR: Say “hello” for us.
ELMO: Thanks for talking to Elmo. And you take care too monkey. What’s his name again?
CHRIS: His name is Spooner.
ELMO: Okay. Take care, Spooner.
CHRIS: Hey you’re watching NASA EDGE.
BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.
ELMO: Yah, baby.[laughing]
BLAIR: We’re back with another look at Space Shuttle Atlantis.
CHRIS: From the folks that made sure it was ready for its final launch.
ANGIE: We normally have a lot of folks come out and watch the vehicle rollover but this is the last one.
BLAIR: And what do they do? They come out and get pictures taken?
ANGIE: Yeah, we started a few flights ago when we knew the program was ending to show our appreciation to the workers and let them have a memento of what they did out here; something historic. We arranged for them to do photo ops with their groups or individual. Whatever they would want to do, so they could have a picture with the bird they’ve been working on.
BLAIR: I haven’t worked on Atlantis but I’m talking pictures of myself left and right out here.[camera clicking]
BLAIR: This is a very special occasion.
TERRY: I’m one of the few that actually worked original build of Columbia and Challenger that’s still working out here.
CHRIS: Some of your colleagues refer to you as “the old guy.”
CHRIS: Are you okay with that?
TERRY: Because I’ve been around for a while. You know, a lot of people are sad about the program ending but when we started it 33 years ago or when I started 33 years ago, no one figured that the program would last that long. The original plan for the shuttle was to fly a hundred flights but you were going to fly 10 or 12 a year. So, they wouldn’t last 30 years.
CHRIS: In looking at what your responsible for, the thermal protection system, how many tiles are you putting on?
TERRY: This orbiter has 24,182 tiles on it.
CHRIS: Oh, wow.
TERRY: But we only replaced 161 for this flight. So it is a good reusable insulation and about 25% of those were for modification. We put a stronger tile on so it we really didn’t have to take the others off other than we came up with a stronger tile.
CHRIS: What’s that made of? Looking at the…
TERRY: Yes, it is. And it is a heat resistant course fabric. It’s made just like a quilt. It has aluminum batting on the inside. Now, Columbia and Challenger were not built with the blankets on there. They’re called flexible insulation blankets. Discovery was the first orbiter built with them. Over the years we learned that we could make those thinner. We took of the thicker blankets and replaced them with thinner blankets to save weight. The other white areas you see that look kind of smooth up there, that’s a Nomex felt with a elastomer coating. The black tiles will see up to 2300°, where the blankets will see up to 1200° Fahrenheit, and the FRSI, the smooth white material is good for up to 700°.
FRANKLIN: Now Tim, your main objective is to manage the move of the Atlantis from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the VAB?
TIM: That’s correct.
FRANKLIN: How do you do it?
TIM: We start out with a lot of platform preps, orbiter configurations. We roll that big, yellow transporter underneath the orbiter and mate it to the orbiter. Then we get everybody on station, which is about 120 some people, and do com checks, communication checks and all that then we start rolling the orbiter out slowly.
FRANKLIN: After the orbiter lands, wherever it lands in the world…
TIM: Uh huh.
FRANKLIN: You also manage to get it back from that spot to the OPF.
TIM: We do. We do. We have people in Dryden. We have people overseas in case we land over there. They’re the contingency crew if we do land there. Once they land at Dryden, we and about 100 other technicians would head out there and start prepping it the same way we just prepped it here; putting it on the back of a 747 then shipping it back to KSC then off loading it then rolling it into the OPF.
BLAIR: What do we have in store for Atlantis for this final shuttle mission? What’s the payload?
RUSS:This particular mission we’ve been working with CIR, Cargo Integration Review, since March 1st of last year. That’s where we got together at JSC and were given the set of instructions by NASA of what we are going to fly. In this case, we’re going to fly a MPLM, a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, which is basically a module that is taken up each time. We take it up and it has commodities to provide food, clothing, experiments, various pieces of hardware and things. The astronauts may need batteries for computers. Whatever it may be, it goes up in the MPLM.
BLAIR: How does it feel to be the manager for the last shuttle payload?
RUSS: Well, I tell you it’s mixed emotions. We’ve worked the shuttle missions for the past 30 years. It’s a bittersweet moment. It’s great to see the mission go and see it be successful and on the same token, it’s nice that you are able to see the program come to a happy ending. Like Dr. Seuss once mentioned, It’s much better to smile because it happened rather than to cry because it’s over. I think that’s very true.
BLAIR: That’s a very good point.
MISSION CONTROL: T-minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, [engines starting] 5; all three engines up and burning; 2, 1, 0. And liftoff, the final liftoff of Atlantis on the shoulders of the Space Shuttle America will continue the dream.[radio communication]
MISSION CONTROL: Roger roll Atlantis. Houston now controlling the flight of Atlantis. The Space Shuttle spreads its wings one final time for the start of a sentimental journey into history. Twenty-four seconds into the flight, roll program complete. Atlantis now heads down, wings level, on the proper alignment for it’s eight and half minute ride to orbit; 4.5 million lbs. of hardware and humans taking aim on the International Space Station.
CHRIS: What a mission!
BLAIR: It’s really impressive to finally see this mission take place. [Mission Control Audio] Hearing about it for so long, meeting all the people that have been working on shuttle. I really want to thank them and all the work that they’ve done, not just recently but for the past 30 years.
CHRIS: Anyone who has ever worked on Shuttle from 1981, even before that, in designing this spacecraft till now, job well done.
BLAIR: One thing I was thinking about in this whole process in 30 years what are we going to be seeing NASA do, whether it be a new vehicle, whether it be landing on another planet or an asteroid or anything else. Who knows?
CHRIS: Hey, in 30 years, we may be writing a blog about landing on Mars.
BLAIR: Um, I probably won’t be doing any writing in 30 years [laughing] but this has certainly been a great ride; so glad to be a part of it. Really, just something special to see this program end in this successful way.
CHRIS: Congratulations once again to the crew of Atlantis; job well done and the end of a great 30-year career.
COMMANDER FERGUSON: Mission complete, Houston. After serving the world for over 30 years, the Space Shuttle found its place in history, has come to a final stop. You know the Space Shuttle has changed the way we view the world. It’s changed the way we view our universe. It’s a lot of emotion today but one thing is indisputable, America is not going to stop exploring. Thank you Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavor, and our ship, Atlantis. Thank you for protecting us and bringing this program to such a fitting end. God bless all of you. God bless the United States of America.