CHRIS: We’re at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
BLAIR: With an NE@.
CHRIS: The Shuttle Engineering Simulator.
BLAIR: If you don’t know, it’s actually the original Kobayashi Maru, which is from Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn.
CHRIS: I’ve never heard of that before but the actual simulator is right behind us. We’re going to have a chance to land the space shuttle.
BLAIR: Yes. And I’ll make sure you see the movie. Let’s go.
CHRIS: Let’s go.
CHRIS: Jennifer, how is this flight simulator different from a normal flight simulator?
BLAIR: Besides the fact I have no control.
JENNIFER: Here at NASA, most of our simulators were using to train the astronauts on different systems. This one we use mostly for the guidance navigation and control engineers to look at new procedures to design new flight software; test out new displays. So it is an engineering simulator.
CHRIS: This cockpit display is identical to what you would see in a regular shuttle?
JENNIFER: It looks pretty close to the real thing.
CHRIS: Cool. So, what do you have lined up for us today?
JENNIFER: Today we’re going to fly an entry. We’re going to do an abort entry into one of our east coast abort landing sites at Oceana.
CHRIS: Virginia Beach.
BLAIR: Hey, our home town.
CHRIS: That’s where we’re from.
JENNIFER: Flying you home.
JEREMY: Actually the simulation we use upstairs, we use at our desktops as well. And that allows us to run much faster than having the crew actually sitting and flying the entire landing. We can do much more analysis. In fact, let’s do some analysis on how well Chris is going to do.
JENNIFER: We’ll start it up. We’ll start at 50,000 feet.
JENNIFER: We’re actually going to come left around the heading alignment circle on this run.
BLAIR: Of course, my job will be watching the altitude and arming and lowering the landing gear and of course deploying the drag chute during landing.
CHRIS: I think that’s enough for him for one launch.
JENNIFER: It’s an important job but…
BLAIR: Hey, I’ve got a job and I’m happy to do it.
JENNIFER: There are nine displays down low with a lot of information for the crew but they put the important ones for landing on the heads-up display. Your altitude and speed you can see.
CHRIS: So as the commander, I’ve got to be able to multi-task and look at all these displays.
BLAIR: Right. And there are so many jobs. That’s why I’m going to take care of the landing gear. Right?
JENNIFER: Blair has a highly important job of deploying the landing gear.
BLAIR: You can’t land it without the landing gear.
JENNIFER: You’re right.
CHRIS: Alright Blair, don’t do me wrong.
BLAIR: I won’t. I’m watching your altitude.
CHRIS: I noticed I’m at 242 mph, .9 G’s, roughly a little less than 40,000 feet. And I’m starting to…
BLAIR: More like 39,000 feet. Who’s counting? Well, I am.
JENNIFER: You’ll come around about 270 degrees and line up with the runway.
CHRIS: So, I need to get this rectangular box in center with the diamond.
JENNIFER: Guidance is telling you where to fly to you just have to make the vehicle….
BLAIR: Trust your feelings, Chris. Use the force.
CHRIS: You’re not helping, Blair.
BLAIR: You’re at 30,000 feet.
CHRIS: This is very stressful.
BLAIR: With no engine.
JENNIFER: You look at the vertical situation display and you’re coming in on energy. So everything’s looking good.
BLAIR: I think I can see the airport.
CHRIS: I’m really focusing on this heads-up display. I guess I should be looking all around.
JENNIFER: There are a lot of other cues, especially on a cloudy day. There are a lot of cues on these different displays that tell you how you’re supposed to be flying. It does take a lot of training. They run a lot of runs in the motion-based simulator and a lot of runs on the total training aircraft too.
BLAIR: We’ve got a good visual on the airstrip. And that does look like Oceana. That’s a good sign. 3,000; we’re arming the landing gear. Okay. Oh Chris, we’re coming in pretty quickly. We’re under a 1,000. I’m lowering the gear.
BLAIR: We do want to land. You ready for chute deployment? Chute is deployed. That should slow us down.
JENNIFER: You rotate the nose.
BLAIR: There we go.
JENNIFER: And hit the brakes. Pretty good.
CHRIS: Look at that.
JENNIFER: Nice job.
CHRIS: So Blair, what did ya think of that landing?
BLAIR: Good job Chris. Not bad.
CHRIS: Perfect landing, isn’t it?
BLAIR: Yeah, not bad for a “medianaut.”
CHRIS: What kind of grade would you give me on this one?
JENNIFER: Crew safe. We’ve got wheels stopped, so I think that’s an “A” for safety here.
CHRIS: That’s perfect. Now, we’ve landed in Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia. We have all this data. Where do you go from there?
JENNIFER: One of the things we want is to have the crew evaluate the landing sites. So, all these abort sites that they might have to fly to, they might need to add different visual cues. So the crew can give feed back on those types of things.
CHRIS: Okay. I tell you what, since we’ve had our first successful landing, could you take it up a notch to maybe add some clouds and cross winds?
JENNIFER: Okay. You’re ready for the big time here?
CHRIS: Yeah, ready for round two.
JENNIFER: We’ll add some clouds.
BLAIR: Would you still drop the gear at 300 feet with clouds?
CHRIS: I would think so.
CHRIS: You ready Blair? You have to make sure you hit the landing gear.
BLAIR: Yeah. I can handle it. This is no Kobayashi Maru.
CHRIS: Let’s go. I’m ready.
JEREMY: Actually we varied quite a bit of different perimeters. And we randomly dispersed them in what’s called the Monte Carlo technique where we can look at thousands of different runs by running on a desktop machine.
BLAIR: Hey, Look Chris. Zero G. It’s like Apollo 13. Must save ship.› Download Vodcast (72MB)