NASA EDGE Show 12: The 411 at NASA Dryden

Text Size

NASA EDGE Show 12: The 411 at NASA Dryden
› Download Vodcast (187MB)
Show 11: The 411 at Dryden

Featuring: NASA Dryden’s SOFIA and IKHANA


CHRIS: Hey, welcome to NASA EDGE.

BLAIR: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: Hey, we have a great show lined up today. We’re going to be focusing on a couple of missions from NASA Dryden’s Flight Research Center in California at Edwards Air Force Base. But before we actually get to those topics, we’re going to have a game this morning.

BLAIR: Yes, but I have an important announcement before we get started. If you know the Mitchell Report lately come out. I want on record that I have never taken steroids of any kind. I’m clean. As a matter of fact, the only juice I’ve had is orange juice and occasionally, when I’m reckless, pomegranate juice. I’m clean. I don’t know about the rest of you guys.

FRANKLIN: Blair, one of the things that has happened is you’ve gotten smarter. Yes.

CHRIS: That’s right, with your “medianaut” training.

BLAIR: That’s correct.

CHRIS: You’re becoming more of an insider.

BLAIR: I know I’m professional and I am athletic, but I have never taken any of those kinds of things.

CHRIS: Enough about you and your ego. Let’s get to the game. That’s the focus here in this segment.

BLAIR: I had to start before the game because I’m going to beat everybody. I didn’t want you to attribute it to steroids.

CHRIS: We’re going to play a new game. It’s called the 50th Anniversary game. As you know, it’s the 50th anniversary for NASA. So, we’re going to play a game between Franklin, you, and I, where we have to come up with the top five NASA missions of the past 50 years.

CHRIS: The winner is… we’re going to see when we name our top five, the ones we have left standing on our sheet that are unique. Let’s say for example, I choose…

BLAIR: … the moon landing. That’s too obvious.

FRANKLIN: That is very obvious.

BLAIR: That is obvious.

CHRIS: You can scratch that.

BLAIR: That’s a give me. That’s a mulligan.

CHRIS: Franklin, we’re going to start with you. We want you to give us your number five pick.

FRANKLIN: Deep Impact.

CHRIS: Deep…. Why did you choose Deep Impact?

FRANKLIN: Deep impact. That is the equivalent of throwing a baseball in the air in Japan and shooting it out of the sky from the United States. It’s just out of control. Think of an asteroid coming through space and hitting it with an object. And taking these pictures of…

CHRIS: Yes, it’s very cool.

BLAIR: In other words, it’s how Blair got a job.

CHRIS: Absolutely.

FRANKLIN: It’s just awesome.

CHRIS: Deep impact. What’s your number five?

BLAIR: I didn’t have Deep Impact.

CHRIS: I didn’t have it either.

BLAIR: I went with the pen that can write upside down. The astronaut pen, where you can write upside down and gravity doesn’t affect it?

CHRIS: Did you read the instructions for this game?

BLAIR: I thought that was a significant accomplishment.

CHRIS: Alright, NASA pen.

BLAIR: I gather neither one of you thought of that one.

CHRIS: It’s not a mission. It’s an accomplishment. We said mission.

BLAIR: Is Deep Impact a mission?

CHRIS: A mission, yeah.

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: Did you have NASA pen on yours?


CHRIS: Okay, that’s one for him. That’s debatable.

CHRIS: I’m going for significance. Something that really changed the way we explore. My number five was International Space Station.



BLAIR: Okay. I had ISS.

CHRIS: Did you have ISS?

FRANKLIN: I did not have ISS.

CHRIS: That doesn’t count for me because you had it.

BLAIR: My fourth one was the Scramjet.

CHRIS: The Scramjet engine.

BLAIR: Yes, the Scramjet engine, ‘cause I think that’s pretty significant. Am I wrong?

CHRIS: What did you have for number four?

FRANKLIN: Number four was the Mars Rover.

CHRIS: I did not have Mars Rover.

BLAIR: I had the Rover on mine.

CHRIS: I had Hubble for number four.

BLAIR: Okay.

FRANKLIN: I had Hubble.

BLAIR: I had Hubble too.

CHRIS: That’s hands down. Hubble is just…

BLAIR: Yeah, I had Hubble.

CHRIS: Number three, I’ll start… Voyager I & II.


CHRIS: You had Voyager too?

BLAIR: I had Voyager.


BLAIR: I had Voyager.

CHRIS: We know Voyager I & II were our first two spacecrafts. Right now, they’re on the cusp of leaving… the Milky Way.

BLAIR: Also, they’re responsible for key dramatic changes in the Star Trek movie.

CHRIS: What’s your next one that you have? Number two.

FRANKLIN: Shuttle.

CHRIS: I had Shuttle too. You have to have Shuttle on your top five list. It’s crazy not to have it.

FRANKLIN: It’s been the workhorse of NASA.

CHRIS: Yeah, since ’81.

BLAIR: According to the rules, you wanted unique. So, I didn’t want to put the shuttle. I went with the pen.

CHRIS: But they’re important missions.

BLAIR: They are important but…

FRANKLIN: We’re going on missions.

CHRIS: Yeah, missions, not uniqueness of accomplishments.

BLAIR: All right.

FRANKLIN: It’s not Innovation, Fabrication.

CHRIS: That’s right.

BLAIR: Although that was a good game. I enjoyed it.

CHRIS: My number one was the Apollo landing.

BLAIR: But we said that didn’t count at the beginning.


BLAIR: That’s the mulligan.

CHRIS: Why are you throwing it out though?

FRANKLIN: It’s very significant but it was a “give me.”

CHRIS: I just assumed that we all had it down as a “give me” on our sheet.

FRANKLIN: It is a “give me.”

BLAIR: That’s a technicality. Did you have it on your list?

CHRIS: I had it on my list.

BLAIR: Did you have it on your five?

FRANKLIN: I didn’t put it on my five.

BLAIR: I didn’t put it on my five. By technicality you get it but we were going to throw that out but you put it on your list.

CHRIS: Yeah. When you said “give me” I thought everyone had it on their list. I was going to scratch it since we all had it. I got it. It’s one point.

BLAIR: It’s a tie. It’s like kissing our sister. We need a tiebreaker. What do we do for a tiebreaker? NASA pen.

[Franklin laughing]

CHRIS: Let’s go to background music and we’ll get some time.

BLAIR: All right.

CHRIS: And then we’ll come back.

BLAIR: Okay. Alright. But… Alright, background music. You’re watching NASA Edge influx…

CHRIS: … an inside and outside look at all things…. But NASA will be back in ten seconds.

BLAIR: Okay, but I could write with a NASA pen.

CHRIS: Hey, we’re back. Sorry for the quick break. We wanted to have a little…

BLAIR: Little tiebreaker.

CHRIS: Okay, what’s your tiebreaker?

BLAIR: Well, Sky Lab.

CHRIS: I got Sky Lab on mine.

[Blair laughing]

BLAIR: Franklin, what do you got? If you don’t have Sky Lab, you win.

FRANKLIN: I don’t have Sky Lab.

CHRIS: What did you have?

FRANKLIN: Pioneer.

BLAIR: Oh man!

CHRIS: Pioneer. That’s right. In fact, wasn’t Pioneer on that you covered in an old news segment?

BLAIR: Probably.


BLAIR: He’s drawing on past news experience. I’m still upset. I think I should have won with the pen.

CHRIS: Let’s take a break.


CHRIS: We’ll settle down a bit.

BLAIR: Settle down.

CHRIS: Get our bearings straight.

BLAIR: And do the news. Franklin, are you ready for the news, today?

FRANKLIN: Man, I’ve got something special for you today.

CHRIS: Cool. Looking forward to it.

FRANKLIN: You’re watching NASA Edge…

BLAIR: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

[all laughing]

BLAIR: I looked at every camera.

CHRIS: I was about to say something. You screwed that up.

BLAIR: How did I screw that up?

CHRIS: We’re suppose to continue talking.

BLAIR: Oh, okay.

CHRIS: Let’s do that again.


CHRIS: Welcome back to NASA EDGE

BLAIR: …an inside and outside look at all things NASA. I’m sorry. I just want to say about the competition, next time, I’ll be more prepared. There was a discrepancy. I’m sorry. I’ll have better events. And maybe we’ll have a better competition next time.

CHRIS: Let’s get to the news segment.

BLAIR: Good idea.

CHRIS & BLAIR: Franklin, what’s going on?

FRANKLIN: In the news today, we’re going to do something new. I got together with our social networking friends over at Facebook and My Space. I have a young lady from Texas named Keri, who’s going to help us do the news today.

CHRIS: Our AGGY?? Friend.

BLAIR: Yes. On our entourage on Facebook.

CHRIS: That’s right.

BLAIR: Perfect.

FRANKLIN: We’re going to get Keri on the phone. Ron, is Keri on the phone?

KERI: Yes, I’m here.


CHRIS: Hey Keri, how ya doing?

BLAIR: Thanks for coming out in support of NASA EDGE and doing the news.

KERI: No problem.

FRANKLIN: After you deliver the news, we’ll come by give you some…

BLAIR: criticism.

FRANKLIN: Constructive criticism.

BLAIR: Constructive, of course. By all means.

KERI: All right.

FRANKLIN: Are you ready to go?

KERI: I’m ready.

CHRIS: What’s happening in the news of NASA, Keri?

BLAIR: Yes, Keri, tell us.

KERI: In early December, the Phoenix Lander team gathered at the Phoenix Operation Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson to perform an operational readiness test. They used a mockup of the Phoenix Lander in a test bed with similar conditions to Mars. They simulated the landing and a few days of operations on the Martian surface. The Phoenix Lander is currently scheduled to land on Mars on May 25, 2008. I have the privilege of working on this mission too.

BLAIR: That’s editorial.

[all laughing]

BLAIR: I’m sorry. I’ve got to break in here. Keri, that is interesting that you worked on that project. But as a news item, you want to remain more objective.

KERI: Okay.

CHRIS: Keri, what did you do on the project? That’s kind of cool to me.

BLAIR: I thought I just told her to be object. Now you’re…

CHRIS: I’d like to hear what she is doing.

BLAIR: Okay, sorry.

CHRIS: Go ahead Keri. What are you doing on the Pheonix?

KERI: My professor is one of the co-investigators for the surface stereo??? imager. I guess I do whatever he tells me to do for him.

BLAIR: CSI Phoenix. That’s what it sounded like to me.

FRANKLIN: Keri, why don’t you let everybody know what you are majoring in.

KERI: Meteorology.

CHRIS: Meteorology. Okay.

FRANKLIN: With an emphasis on…

KERI: The Martian atmosphere.

ALL: Cool.

BLAIR: That’s talking about getting ahead of the game there.

CHRIS: Right.

BLAIR: They’re not doing daily weather reports.

CHRIS: Could you give us the five-day forecast for the Martian surface?

BLAIR: Very gassy.

KERI: Cold and a little bit dusty.

CHRIS: A little bit dusty?

KERI: A little.


FRANKLIN: Two words for Keri; over-achiever.

[all laughing]

CHRIS: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

BLAIR: That’s great. That’s only one item. Another news item.

KERI: While the Mars Exploration rover, Spirit, was heading towards its winter haven, it uncovered an area of soil that is rich in silica. Scientists believe this patch could have been formed due to a hot-spring environment or fumeral environment, where acidic steam rises through the cracks in the rocks. On Earth both of these kinds of environments are full of microbial life. Steve Squires, the principal investigator for the Rovers, says this concentration of silica is probably the most significant discovery by Spirit for revealing a habitable shade that existed on Mars in the past.

CHRIS: Keri, tell me about these Rovers. They’re getting ready to hunker down for the Martian winters? I understand that with the Martian dust collecting on the solar panels, that it takes longer to recharge the batteries.

KERI: Yes, Spirit, unfortunately, wasn’t cleared off after the dust storm this summer. So her power is really hurting. They’re trying to get her to the north-facing slope, to get more sunlight for the winter. Opportunity is in Victoria Crater. The way she has entered it, she’s tilted toward the north. She gets a lot more power and her solar panels were cleaned off after the dust storm. She’s doing a lot better than Spirit.

CHRIS: Are there any “he” rovers on Mars?

KERI: Maybe.

BLAIR: I don’t know who’s going to check. It would be a little tough.

FRANKLIN: Do you have a pipeline into the NASA TV channel?

KERI: Yes, I do.

BLAIR: It’s clear.

FRANKLIN: It’s clear.

BLAIR: I don’t even know if we’re done with the news or not but she gets an A+. Anybody that can mention Mars and hot springs in the same report gets “kudos” from me.

CHRIS: I’ve got to give “kudos” to Franklin. That’s a great program, getting our friends on the line to do the news.

FRANKLIN: Keri did an excellent job. I think she did great. I think we should have her back soon.

BLAIR: We’ll see. I don’t know how much tutelage Franklin gave you but clearly you have a gift here.

CHRIS: Keri, you know what that means? If you do the news, Franklin gets to sit back and relax and doesn’t need to work.

KERI: There you go.

FRANKLIN: Thank you Keri. I’ll mail you a check.


BLAIR: Thanks so much, Keri for doing the news today. You did a great job. I hopefully we won’t only see you on Facebook but perhaps have you come back and do some more news for us in the future.

KERI: I’ll be sure not to be biased next time.

BLAIR: There you go.

CHRIS: Keri, thanks so much. We’ll talk to you soon.

KERI: All right.

CHRIS: You’re watching NASA Edge…

FRANKLIN: …an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: She was great, wasn’t she?

BLAIR: She was great. She did better than Franklin. We don’t need Franklin.

FRANKLIN: Goodness gracious.

BLAIR: Franklin, you’re off of the picture.

FRANKLIN: Ugh! [all laughing]


BLAIR: Welcome back to NASA EDGE.

FRANKLIN: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: Let’s get to the significant portion of today’s program.

BLAIR: Yes, the meaty part.

CHRIS: Yes. Which are two cool projects from Dryden Flight Research Center.



BLAIR: And “kudos” to Franklin, who actually put us in contact with the lovely Sheri Olsen, from the Strategic Communication Office out there, who set a lot of this up and made it possible to see all that we saw.

CHRIS: That was a good contact.

FRANKLIN: I’m glad she took care of you guys.

BLAIR: She was the best.

CHRIS: In fact, she even took us to where all the astronauts go. All the astronauts that land at Edwards Air Force Base eat at Domingo’s.

BLAIR: It’s a little Mexican restaurant. It’s great. It’s interesting. When we went to the restaurant, there we all these pictures on the wall from each mission where the astronauts came in and actually ate there.

CHRIS: That was pretty cool.

BLAIR: A little slice of history there.

FRANKLIN: Are you guys going to be able to put your picture on the wall?

BLAIR: I left a lot of pictures of myself. I don’t know if they’re going to put it on the wall. We’ll see.

CHRIS: The first mission we going to talk about today is SOFIA.

BLAIR: Which is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

CHRIS: It’s amazing when we talk about telescopes. We look at the ground-based telescopes and we have many of them across the country. Then we have the space telescopes, like the Hubble, and soon to be James Webb.

BLAIR: James Webb, that’s right.

CHRIS: What about the air-born guys? They get left out on all this.

BLAIR: They use to get left out but not any more. They’re putting SOFIA together. It’s going to be a perfect compliment to those two. It will be interesting as we share with the audience what we learned. By the way, not a good idea to ask an astronomers what they’re sign is, as I found out. They don’t take kindly to that. Not that I believe in that but…

CHRIS: Let’s go ahead and see what took place at Dryden Flight Research Center.

BLAIR: All right. We’ll do that.

CHRIS: Cool.

CHRIS: The telescope is a pretty big telescope, about 2 ½ meters?

BOB: Right.

CHRIS: And it’s going to be looking at space in the infrared range?

BOB: That’s right.

CHRIS: What are some of the advantages of looking at space in the infrared range?

BOB: Infrared is just above the visual range where we can actually see with our eyes. With SOFIA we’re looking at stars that generated the light that were looking at hundreds of millions of years ago. The infrared is actually able to see through that dust and see things that you can’t see in the visual range.

BLAIR: So, essentially what you’re talking about is high tech baby pictures for stars?

BOB: That’s right. Yeah.

CHRIS: What are the long-term goals of SOFIA? How many years to you expect to use this type of aircraft and for the instrument to last?

BOB: The design is for 20-year lifetime for the telescope and the airplane itself. We don’t actually expect to start gathering astronomy data on the stars until 2009.

CHRIS: ’09. Okay.

BOB: We won’t get any pictures of stars until 2009.

CHRIS: When SOFIA is up and operational will be roughly about the time James Webb will be up. And of course we have Hubble with this last servicing mission coming up and we have all the ground bases. It really compliments all the telescopes in one big package.

BOB: They really do. Hubble does most of its work in the visual range. So the work that SOFIA can do will actually compliment a lot of the other observatories.

CHRIS: What are the advantages of having this infrared telescope on an air-born system as opposed to launching a satellite with an infrared telescope?

BOB: If you’re going to put an instrument in space on a spacecraft, you have to pick that technology between five and ten years before the launch, go ahead and develop the instrument. So when the instrument goes up in space, it’s probably using technology that’s at least five years old, maybe more. With SOFIA, you land after every mission. You can change the instruments out. You can be flying the latest and greatest state of the art.

BLAIR: Easily upgradeable.

CHRIS: That’s right.

BOB: Easily upgradeable.

CHRIS: I understand the instrument, itself, was developed by the Germans? And there was a lot of international cooperation?

BOB: Yes, it’s an international program. The Germans actually developed the telescope and the US supplied the money for the modifications to the airplane. It’s a quite large modification. There’s a rather large hole that’s been cut in the back of the airplane.

CHRIS: The room that we’re in now is a control room for SOFIA?

BOB: This is mission control center for when we do flight tests on SOFIA. Right now, because we made such a large modification to the airplane, we’re actually recertifying the airplane to be able to go do the mission that we want it to do. And we want it to be able carry scientists and other people on board the airplane.

CHRIS: Maybe we can go see SOFIA in the hanger?

BLAIR: That would be great.

BOB: Hey, that would be great. I think Jim Mills is waiting for you to show up.

CHRIS: Cool.

BLAIR: Perfect.

CHRIS: Maybe they’ll fly it.

BLAIR: I hope so.

CHRIS: We’re here is Jim Mills who is the Avionics Instrumentation Lead for SOFIA. Hey Jim, how are you doing?

JIM: Good. Welcome to Dryden.

CHRIS: Thank you very much.

BLAIR: I’ve got one quick question for you. Looking at this gorgeous airplane, I’m wondering, have you at least done away with that rigid class structure system, where you have people in coach, first class and all this animosity?

JIM: Actually we don’t have first class, economy class. We just have science class.

BLAIR: Science class? What about Liberal Arts?

JIM: Liberal Arts, they get to sit up in the piano bar.

BLAIR: [laughing] I’m there!

CHRIS: What we have behind us is a 747SP?

JIM: That’s correct.

CHRIS: How is that different from a regular 747?

JIM: The 747SP, SP standing for special performance. It was a plane that was built to climb to high altitude and cruise long distances at high speeds. So to make it go faster, they took about 36 feet of fuselage out, made the plane lighter, put on special high-performance wings, which with the normal engines made it very fast. The fastest 747 made. And of course NASA, liking things very fast, we put on bigger engines. And it was the perfect plane for flying air-born astronomy telescope to high altitudes. That was a good choice.

CHRIS: So what kind of speeds are we talking about? Can this thing break the sound barrier?

JIM: Not intentionally but it can fly at about .84 mach.

CHRIS: Okay.

JIM: That’s pretty quick. Originally, it was able to fly at about .96 mach. But with the telescope doors in it, they have decided to hold the speed limit down a little bit until the flight test is over. Then, maybe they’ll extend it.

BLAIR: Wait a minute. Is there some kind of speed limit system up in the air?

JIM: Right. Air traffic controllers have radar guns and they’re keeping track of you all the time.

BLAIR: Oh, that’s not good.

JIM: Right.

BLAIR: Man, you can’t ever beat the system.

CHRIS: The telescope dictated the type of aircraft that you were going to use.

JIM: That’s correct. Absolutely. It’s a very large structure. It’s about 40,000 pounds, plus we have a lot of installations for scientists to sit at and teachers and people interested in the science that’s going on in flight.

CHRIS: So Jim, where is the telescope going to be housed on the plane?

JIM: The telescope is located in what would be the aft-cabin on a regular 747, about where the lavatories and aft-galley are located, behind a pressure wall, so the telescope operates in the atmosphere the plane is flying through. There’s nothing between the telescope mirror and the outside of the airplane. The hatch tracks around to the opposite side of the airplane on a set of forward and aft tracks. It’s a sixteen-foot wide hole and the door weighs about 1,600 pounds. It allows the mirror to see through the side of the plane.

CHRIS: Jim, thank you for giving us a tour of SOFIA. That was a cool plane.

JIM: It’s been my pleasure.

BLAIR: You’re watching NASA EDGE

CHRIS: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA.


CHRIS: Welcome back to NASA EDGE.

BLAIR: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: Boy, that SOFIA aircraft is unbelievable.

BLAIR: It’s fabulous. And I can’t wait to see it when the doors open in flight and start gathering data.

CHRIS: And the fact that we might have the opportunity to be on that flight is pretty cool.

BLAIR: Yeah, if we play our cards right. That will be great. Franklin, you’ll get out there and actually sit inside SOFIA on one of these missions. It will be great.

CHRIS: At about 40,000 feet, it’s going to be cool.

FRANKLIN: That sounds great. I’m surprised you didn’t make it up there and get in the plane already.

CHRIS: Well…

BLAIR: We tried. If they were flying we would have been there.

CHRIS: That’s right.

FRANKLIN: You weren’t able to work your mojo?

BLAIR: No, I tried.

CHRIS: We have another cool aircraft that we need to talk about.


CHRIS: That’s right, which is a predator drone that’s unmanned, which means there’s no pilot in the cockpit.

BLAIR: Right. Which is frustrating because I thought maybe I could apply my Xbox skills and get a flight out there, Franklin. But apparently they do not honor experience points from Xbox live.

CHRIS: His pilot’s license with Xbox doesn’t work at this point.

FRANKLIN: It’s not like a little joystick control deal?

BLAIR: No, it’s very elaborate.

CHRIS: They have a joystick.

BLAIR: It looks like a real flight cockpit. It’s got all the controls. Everything you would see in a cockpit.

FRANKLIN: How many people actually operate the drone?

CHRIS: One pilot.

FRANKLIN: One pilot.

BLAIR: Well.

CHRIS: We’ll talk about that.

BLAIR: We’ll answer a bevy of questions after we check out the IKHANA.

CHRIS: Let’s check it out.

BLAIR: Yeah, let’s take a look.

CHRIS: We’re here with Brent Cobleigh, the project manager for the IKHANA. Brent, tell us about this great aircraft you have behind you.

BRENT: What we have behind us is an unmanned aircraft. It’s called a Predator B. NASA has purchased this aircraft so we can use unmanned aircraft to do different kinds of science missions and also develop technologies for unmanned aircraft.

BLAIR: And unmanned obviously meaning just like a remote control airplane, basically.

BRENT: Yeah. There are some unmanned aircraft that are flown totally autonomously. But an aircraft like this has a pilot that sits on the ground in a ground control station. It’s really remotely piloted.

BLAIR: Oh, remotely piloted.

CHRIS: What’s some of the primary objectives of this aircraft?

BRENT: We want to use it to perform science missions. What we’ll do is take science sensors that need to study the atmosphere or the earth and we’ll just carry them around. What’s neat about this aircraft is it can fly for more than 24 hours. So you can actually collect data over a complete day and night cycle. That’s one of the key things we use the airplane for.

CHRIS: I understand this particular aircraft took part in the wildfires?

BRENT: Here at NASA Dryden, we work closely with NASA Ames and with the US Forests Service. What we did is interrogated an infrared sensor. The infrared sensor can see heat essentially. So, by flying that over the fires, we can essentially take pictures of the fire and map out the fires. And those images get sent through our satellite system that we’re commanding the airplane with, down to the fire incident commanders. They use that data to figure out where they need to put fire resources to be able to manage the wildfires. Early in the summer we did some demonstration missions. We flew from here, in southern California, as far away as Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington State. We were covering many, many fires in one long mission. We did several of those kinds of missions. And basically developed technologies and developed the ways to use them. And then, when the big wildfires popped up in southern California, it turned into a real emergency. The governor’s office called and asked if we could respond. And we did.

CHRIS: What are some types of other science experiments that you foresee in the future that might be used on this aircraft.

BRENT: There’s a lot of different stuff in this sensor that’s called a fiber optic wing-shaped sensor system. We’re using a very thin, hair-sized fiber-optic wire. And we can measure the shape of the wing and by doing that we can design lighter and lighter wings.

BLAIR: Nice.

BRENT: And be able to find fly instead of one day, may be able to fly an airplane for three days at a time on one tank of gas.

CHRIS: Structurally, what is this plane made out of? Is this an aluminum aircraft? Is it composite?

BRENT: It’s made out of carbon composite. It’s very, very lightweight. In fact, it almost doubles its weight when we load it with fuel.

CHRIS: Really.

BRENT: It carries about 4,000 lbs. of fuel. And the airplane itself is only about 5,000 lbs.

CHRIS: Could it carry Blair?

BLAIR: Skip a few meals, grab a legal pad, and some binoculars, strap this to the bottom, I’m good to go. I’m gathering data. Technically, this would be stowing away but I think I can fit in the name of science. Why not?

BLAIR: [making flying noises] Yes, NASA headquarters, we have spotted the wildfires.

BRENT: Whenever you fly high-altitude for long durations, you really want long wings.

CHRIS: So, a wing with a high aspect ratio?

BRENT: That’s exactly right.

CHRIS: Do you know what that is, high aspect ratio?

BLAIR: Yeah. That’s like 16 x 9 for your wide screen movies.

CHRIS: Very similar. We’ll talk about that later. I’ll educate you about that later.

BLAIR: I’d like a wide-screen…

CHRIS: So this section right here is the heart and soul of the aircraft.

BRENT: Yes. All the flight control computers, the navigation systems, satellite systems all go in here. That’s the main part, the brains. The mid-part of the fuselage carries fuel. So the 4,000 lbs of fuel, starts in here and runs all over the wing or into the wing. What you have in the back, since we have the panels off right now, is this turbo propped airplane.

BLAIR: This is great. You’re watching NASA Edge.

CHRIS: …an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: Franklin, what do you think? Do you think his pilot’s license from his Xbox 360 could actually fly the Predator?

FRANKLIN: I’ve logged quite a few hours on Xbox live, so if he was up to where I am, he could handle it.

BLAIR: Oh no, wait. I don’t know. ‘Cause we were talking to the pilots out there, Franklin, and they said one of the differences…. There’s really no comparison other than the fact you’re not in a plane. Maybe that similarity but that’s where it ends. They’ve got to run multi-hour long missions.

CHRIS: And it’s the real deal. Let’s say something goes wrong, they don’t have a 360-degree window to look at. They have to figure out what’s going on right there in the trailer.

FRANKLIN: That’s what they said.

BLAIR: No. The other big thing is you don’t get an extra life. You crash the IKHANA, you’re…

CHRIS: It’s very difficult. It’s a lot harder than you think.

BLAIR: You can’t just reboot and start over again.

FRANKLIN: It becomes “other than honorable discharge.” [laughing]

BLAIR: Something like that.

CHRIS: Speaking of IKHANA, what’s IKHANA stand for?

BLAIR: IKHANA. What does IKHANA stand for?

CHRIS: Is it an acronym or is it just a name?

BLAIR: I know the answer to that. Do you want…?

FRANKLIN: Actually, it sounds like the place I bought my new bedroom suite.

CHRIS: Okay, Mr. Insider. We interviewed the project manager…

BLAIR: And it doesn’t stand for anything.

CHRIS: Are you sure?

BLAIR: I am positive. It is a Choctaw term, IKHANA. You can’t break it down and tell what it means.

CHRIS: Is that your final answer?


CHRIS: Spell IKHANA. What does IKHANA spell?


CHRIS: Write it down.

BLAIR: Okay.


BLAIR: I don’t need to wait for you.


BLAIR: I know how to spell IKHANA.

CHRIS: I Kan’t Have Another NASA Acronym.

BLAIR: The host doesn’t realize that can’t is spelled with a “c.”

CHRIS: Sometimes it’s also spelled with a “k.” From the IKHANA crew. Before we wrap up the show…

BLAIR: I can’t have another segment.

CHRIS: We’re going to have just a short segment. We, actually, with our Facebook friends had a poll on Facebook. The questions is: How did Blair get the job as co-host of NASA Edge. 1. He has a stellar resume in production. 2. His mom campaigned for him. 3. He was endorsed by Chipolte and In and Out. 4. The set therapist felt sorry for him. And the final choice: He creates unusual road CD’s.

FRANKLIN: I’ve heard about 75% of those road CD’s and they’re pretty interesting. But if I had to put some money on it, Mom put in a couple calls for him.

BLAIR: Come on.

CHRIS: Okay, here are the results. 47%, the number one answer, was you’re mom campaigned for you.

BLAIR: Okay. 47% wrong but that’s okay.

CHRIS: How do you feel about that?

BLAIR: I love my mom. Don’t get me wrong and we have a great relationship but she had nothing to do with me getting a job, other than bringing me into the world and raising me as a creative genius.

CHRIS: We have a special Facebook friend on line that actually helped out with this.

BLAIR: [laughing] Is my mom on Facebook?

CHRIS: Is our Facebook friend on line?

MRS. ALLEN:: Hello.

CHRIS: Is this


MRS. ALLEN:: Yes, this is


CHRIS: Oh, how ya doing?

MRS. ALLEN:: It’s good to talk to you.

BLAIR: Oh mom, this is great. How did you do that?

CHRIS: It is Blair’s mom on the line.

MRS. ALLEN:: Blair’s smart and he has a vivid imagination and he’s a creative thinker. So being the youngest of four, he developed strength early on to overcome adversity. And I thought he would add the spark, the red hair to make NASA Edge an interesting, and innovative show.


CHRIS: Look at that.

BLAIR: Mom, are you free styling that?

[all laughing]

BLAIR: Did you write that in advance? That’s amazing!

CHRIS: She called several times to campaign for you for the job.

MRS. ALLEN:: And Blair, you owe me one.


BLAIR: I owe you quite a bit, Mom.

MRS. ALLEN:: Well, thank you.

BLAIR: Wow! That’s incredible. Thanks for coming on. This is great.

CHRIS: Absolutely.

MRS. ALLEN:: It was great. I enjoyed talking to you. I’m really proud of you. You all do a great job.

CHRIS: Thank you. If you hold on the line, we’ll talk to you. We’re going to go ahead and sign off. You’re watching NASA EDGE.

BLAIR: … an inside and outside look at all things familial and NASA.

CHRIS: Have a great day.

BLAIR: Nice to hear from you, Mom. That’s great!

› Download Vodcast (187MB)