Featuring: NASA and The Winter X Games NASA EDGE is back in Aspen, Colorado for Winter X 12.
Franklin may have followed the wrong signs on the slopes, but Chris, Blair and their fans come together to help with an ESA and an in-depth look at just what it takes to support both athletes and astronauts.
CHRIS: Welcome to NASA Edge.
BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.
CHRIS: We’re right here at Winter X Games XII in Aspen, Colorado.
BLAIR: At Winter X Games XI, we focused on spin-offs or NASA benefits. But this year we’re going to focus on.
CHRIS: … the support crew. We have a lot of X Game athletes out here. We see them in the lime light on TV but.
CHRIS: …we want to know behind the scenes. What about the support team that helps accomplish what they want to do.
BLAIR: Right. There are a lot of people that go into maintaining an event like the X Games.
CHRIS: Also, when astronauts go into space on a mission.
BLAIR: Oh, certainly.
CHRIS: …they have a huge support team back here on Earth to help them accomplish their mission. And in fact, since you want to be a “medianaut” and you want to go to the moon by the end of the next decade, you need a support staff too. This is training for you as well.
BLAIR: I need a support staff. You’re right.
CHRIS: I think we have one up on top of the mountain.
BLAIR: That’s Franklin.
BLAIR: In fact, we can go to Franklin right now and find out what he’s doing. Hey Franklin, are you there? [silence] Franklin?
CHRIS: Do you have him?
DON: Hey Blair, this is Don. I’m up here at the site. There’s no sign of Franklin anywhere. I did see some snowboard tracks headed down the hill. I hope he’s all right.
BLAIR: No Franklin. There’s no Franklin. Franklin’s gone. He’s down. Franklin’s down.
CHRIS: Okay. I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Since we have to line up some interviews with athletes, you take the skilift, find out where Franklin is. And I’ll go ahead and arrange…
BLAIR: What am I going to do without Franklin? We’ve got to find him.
CHRIS: Tell you what, either call Jacky or we’re going to have to do something. Or we’ll get you to do the ESA.
BLAIR: All right.
CHRIS: Go check him out. We’ll come back. You’re watching NASA Edge.
BLAIR: An inside and outside and hopefully a safe side of all things NASA.
CHRIS: This doesn’t happen too often. We’re sorry about this.
BLAIR: Where’s Franklin? Franklin. [worried]
BLAIR: It’s great having the height advantage here. I can sort of get a good view but I’ve seen some downed trees, injured woodland creatures but no sign of Franklin. Of course, he may already be in a medical facility somewhere. We’ll have to see if we can contact them up top. Boy, it’s cold out here. I hope if he’s down that he’s made contact with the rescue team. Otherwise, I’ll have to go after him myself and do a little tauntaun situation from Empire Strikes Back and see what we can come up with.
BLAIR: Hey Franklin, if you get this message, I hope you’re okay.
BLAIR: Um, I’m just looking for you out on the slopes, hoping to find you. We’ve got a show to do and I know you’re looking forward to that. Most of all, we’re concerned about your safety. So, give me a call back. See ya.
BLAIR: Could be anywhere. Could be anywhere.
CHRIS: Hey, we’re here with Kristi Leskinen, a NASA Edge fan favorite. I just want to see if you can explain to our viewers how important is your support crew?
KRISTI: You know what? You couldn’t be a professional athlete without a good support crew. Starting with your parents, they’re the ones that get you there. They’re the ones that take you to practice when you’re young. And then it goes onto team managers and making sure you have the product.
KRISTI: Especially, I can’t imagine as an astronaut, there’s only so much you can do flying the space shuttle. Someone’s got to put that thing together.
CHRIS: We’re here with Kier Dillon at Winter X XII. Hey Kier, how ya doing?
KIER: I’m doing well, thanks.
CHRIS: How important is it to these athletes, such as yourself, to have a strong support crew at these events?
KIER: It’s so important on all levels, whether it’s your girl and your family hanging out in the crowd supporting you or the tech guy that’s tuning your boards and making everything as fast as possible, so you get the amplitude you need.
TUCKER: It’s huge. It’s an event where on the TV the viewers see me and the other athletes out there racing and competing but they don’t see what’s behind the scenes. And that’s a whole crew and a whole team of mechanics and people that make sure everything is ready for me. And I can just get on it and do my job. We’ve got about five mechanics that sit back in the trailer and work all day long. It’s not the time out there that’s going to win or lose a race. It’s how well you prepare in the time between races.
CHRIS: So Steve, we have a great event going on this year at Winter X Games XII. How are you feeling before the competition?
STEVE: I am feeling really good for the contest. I’ve been riding a little bit here and there and just having a lot of fun. Pipe is amazing.
CHRIS: Do you have people here helping you out with the board, helping you out with your equipment, getting it ready for you?
STEVE: Yeah, absolutely. Being on the U.S. Snowboard team, we’ve got to do wax hex and do soars. My coaches…. For the most part my support crew is in the contest.
CHRIS: We’re with Hannah Teeter, another NASA Edge favorite. When you’re up on top of the super pipe, what’s going in your mind before you start a run?
HANNAH: Well, I turn up the music, so I can’t really hear myself and then I drop in. I get all excited kind of. I get all excited and I try to mellow out and then I go.
CHRIS: So do you visualize that gold medal around you as you go down the pipe?
HANNAH: Well, I actually have a new motivation now when I drop in. I donate all my prize money to my charity. We sponsor a town in Kenya…
CHRIS: Oh, great!
HANNAH: That’s a new confidence for me. Dropping in, thinking about these kids who don’t have anything.
CHRIS: That’s wonderful.
HANNAH: It’s really cool.
CHRIS: Hannah, good luck to you. We appreciate the time. Go for it.
TUCKER: You learn as you go. You figure out what the wrong thing feels like and what you need to do to adjust that. Then it’s my job to relay that back to the team and the mechanics, so they can make those adjustments. And hopefully make it better. I’m twenty-three years old and basically have been focused on what I do for my entire life.
TUCKER: It takes a long time and many years to build up to an elite level. Just like any sport, it doesn’t happen over night. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of training and sacrifice.
CHRIS: Before you’re ready for a competition, do you already have in the back of your mind what you plan on doing in terms of number of tricks or what kind of tricks you’re going to do?
STEVE: Yeah. I generally practice one or two runs throughout the week that I’m here beforehand. And then sometimes I have to wing it and sometimes it goes as planned. You never know.
CHRIS: NASA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
STEVE: Yeah, that’s amazing.
CHRIS: Let me ask you something else. What do you think Winter X is going to be like 50 years from now?
STEVE: Oh, I don’t know. Is it going to be happening on Mars?
CHRIS: That’s a good question.
STEVE: I don’t know.
CHRIS: Would you go?
STEVE: Yeah! I’ve always wanted to go to outer space.
TUCKER: It’s changing so much every year. Things develop and get bigger and bigger all the time. So, I guess you never know. Maybe X Games will go to the moon.
CHRIS: Would you like to go?
TUCKER: Yeah, I’m on board. I’ll go. It might take a little different settings on the snowmobile to make it work up there but I’m all about it.
BLAIR: All right, please pick up Franklin. Please be all right. Pick up.
BLAIR: Hey Franklin! Is that you?
FRANKLIN: Yeah man, how ya doing? [sounds uncomfortable]
BLAIR: Well, are you a live?
FRANKLIN: I was coming down the mountain and there was a fork in the trail. To the right went to a Blue run, the left went to a Double Black Diamond with mogul and tree obstacles.
BLAIR: Tell me you didn’t take the Black Diamond.
FRANKLIN: I broke my board and got jacked up. I’m laid up for a little while here in Aspen in the infirmary.
BLAIR: Okay, I’m a little bummed about this ‘cause you’re supposed to do the ESA. Now Chris is telling me I’ve got to do the ESA and you know I’m not really good at that. I got to rely on you man. What can I do?
FRANKLIN: Since this is the 50th Anniversary of NASA, I was going to come up with questions about what have been some of the top technological advancements that NASA’s put forth over the past 50 years?
BLAIR: Well, that’s good. I got a lead. I don’t mean to be short with you or anything. I’m just glad you’re okay but I’ll do my best to pull up my end of the bargain and not make you look bad.
FRANKLIN: I look bad on my own. I don’t need any help in that category. Where’s that button for the nurse? I need some help.
BLAIR: [laughing] Hang in there, buddy. All right, I’ll take care of the ESA and just get better quickly. Okay?
FRANKLIN: Okay, will do.
BLAIR: All right man, take it easy.
FRANKLIN: All right. Nurse! Nurse!
BLAIR: Hey, welcome to NASA EDGE. I just want to ask you a couple of questions about NASA. What is the most significant accomplishment NASA has achieved in the last 50 years?
X GAMES FAN: The last 50 years?
X GAMES FAN: Hmmm, going to the Moon.
X GAMES FAN: I’d say the rover on Mars.
X GAMES FAN: Definitely the Man on the Moon project.
X GAMES FAN: The closer international relations that have been established through the joint venture with so many other countries.
X GAMES FAN: I believe that there was something about putting some type of camera advanced system on Mars to see if there is some kind of micro… to see if humans would be able to live there in the future. So, I think that that was nice.
BLAIR: That would be the rovers. That’s good.
X GAMES FAN: Oh it’s got to be the tempur-pedic mattress.
X GAMES FAN: Making it safer trip for all other astronauts to go up.
BLAIR: What would you like to see NASA accomplish in the next 50 years?
X GAMES FAN: In the next 50 years? I don’t know.
X GAMES FAN: I’m personally really a fan of everything that NASA does.
X GAMES FAN: I’d love to go to space, actually. Do you want to invite me?
X GAMES FAN: I’d like to see them get a man on Mars, that next interplanetary step.
X GAMES FAN: I’m a little bit of a Treckie from way back, and I’d like to see.
BLAIR: Sorry, no teleporters.
X GAMES FAN: I would like to see NASA be able to get oxygen, see how we could get oxygen on Mars. That would be nice.
BLAIR: Terraforming, that’s pretty impressive.
X GAMES FAN: I’m sure it is probably out of control, but making actually possible for people to go up into space. And you don’t have to be a bajillionaire to do it.
X GAMES FAN: The US continues to, and the other countries, but the US largely still drives international space travel. And a little bit of a soft spot for human beings, not just robotics.
X GAMES FAN: Maybe just putting a hotel in space like something with a spa.
X GAMES FAN: I’m ready to go.
BLAIR: You heard it hear first on NASA EDGE. That’s great, thanks a lot.
BLAIR: I’m here with Mike Hogan, one of the many snowmobile drivers, the support staff here at X Games. And we’re just going to ask him a couple of questions about what you do here to support the athletes and people competing here at X Games. I understand you’re a snowmobile driver, so what does that entail for the X Games?
MIKE: During my work here for the X Games, I pretty much drive athletes and/or cameramen up and down the hill.
BLAIR: In the astronaut comparison, you’re like the Hans and Franz, like the crawler and astronaut carrier that takes those guys out to the launch pad.
MIKE: Exactly, you can say that.
BLAIR: What kinds of things do you do to prepare, or what are the greatest stresses that you have in this kind of job?
MIKE: It gets really difficult when it’s probably really cold and snowy out is the hardest time to do this job efficiently. You try to stay warm and try to stay out of people’s way. You’ve got snowcats and other snowmobiles and other people trying to get up and down the hill as well.
BLAIR: Do you get to know the athletes pretty well in this process?
MIKE: Sometimes. I mean sometimes they will sit on your sled for a little bit while you have to wait to go up the hill. It might be clogged, traffic going on. You have to wait. Sometimes they’re really talkative; sometimes they’re not.
BLAIR: Each mission, they may be more focused or something like that?
MIKE: Exactly. They might be in their zone. They don’t want to talk to anyone, or they might be really exuberant and want to share what they’re feeling.
BLAIR: Awesome. That’s great. I really appreciate it. Not only will the athletes do well, but you and the cold and in the tough environment you will do well and will deliver everybody safely this Winter X Games.
MIKE: Blair, thank you very much. Franklin, I hope you get better out there.
BLAIR: Everybody wants Franklin to get better.
FRANKLIN FANS: By the way, tell Franklin we said hi and that we hope he feels better.
FRANKLIN FANS: Thank you, and tell Franklin we said hello. Hope he feels better.
FRANKLIN FAN: Hey Franklin, I hope you get better. I want you back in that studio real soon, so heal up. Hope it’s all good.
FRANKLIN FAN: Tell Franklin I hope he feels better.
FRANKLIN FAN: Tell Franklin I hope he feels better.
FRANKLIN FAN: Please tell Franklin that we hope he’s feeling better.
CHRIS: Hey, we learned a lot from Kristi, Hannah, Kier and the gang.
BLAIR: Yes, and I also learned that Franklin is going to be ok. So it’s a good thing.
CHRIS: Hey let’s go back to the studio where we can teach you a behind the scenes look at NASA.
BLAIR: You don’t need to teach me, but we’re watching NASA EDGE on the Edge.
CHRIS: at Winter X 12.
RON: Stand by. We’re rolling in 5, 4, 3, 2.
FRANKLIN: Oh, welcome back to NASA Edge.
BLAIR: [laughing] You okay there, buddy? It’s really good to have you back, Franklin. I’m a little concerned. Are you doing all right?
FRANKLIN: I’m doing the best I can.
FRANKLIN: considering the circumstances.
BLAIR: Yeah, exactly.
CHRIS: I can’t believe Neil gave you the wrong lift tickets.
FRANKLIN: He gave me the right lift tickets. I just took the wrong trail.
CHRIS: You went down Double Black Diamond?
FRANKLIN: Yeah, and I should have been on the Blue.
BLAIR: Good to see you back in the studio, helping out in a support role.
CHRIS: And also, glad to have Robbie back. Robbie Kerns.
BLAIR: Also a support role.
CHRIS: Thanks for being here.
ROBBIE: Thanks for having me.
CHRIS: Thank you sir. You did such a great job the first time we had you on, we had to have you back.
CHRIS: What’s up with the hat and the scarf? It’s 85 degrees in here.
BLAIR: It is 85 degrees in here.
CHRIS: We’ve got the lights and everything. We’re sweating.
BLAIR: Look, we’re doing an X Games show. And I was afraid if there wasn’t some representation, you would lose traction. So, I’ve sort of dressed thematically today.
CHRIS: The focus of being at Winter X was looking at the support crew. We know that the athletes are on TV. They get all the lime light but what about the people behind the scenes? And we want to translate that to NASA. When you look at the astronauts that go up on shuttle and they’re on station. They’re in the limelight. They’re the ones that get all the glory but what about the folks that work behind the scenes?
ROBBIE: There’s a tremendous amount of people that work behind the scenes to make things happen. You can compare it to the things that go on at the X Games. When you see the athletes themselves or even the coaches, they’re kind of the operations people. They are making it happen but everything that’s involved with that from the skis they use, to the lifts that pick them up, and the ramps that come down.
ROBBIE: All of that stuff is developed and designed by people behind the scenes. And it’s the people behind the scenes that continue to develop the tools and technologies that they need to make things better and better every year. There’s some things that Langley has done over the past several years to support the shuttle program, Return to Flight Project. And again, you could think of it as a really specialized vehicle that’s in an operations mode but there are people behind the scenes that are helping to develop the tools and technologies to improve it and keep it going.
CHRIS: Now, I understand you have a few pictures to show us to give us some examples of how Langley has contributed to the shuttle.
ROBBIE: Right. These are some of the things we’ve done behind the scenes. Some of them are developmental and some of them are operational in nature but these are things you would expect out of a research center.
ROBBIE: Which Langley is as opposed to an operation center, which Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center. They’re operation centers. If you have an impact to that reinforced carbon-carbon, it’s possible to have impact on the outside surface and really not be able to detect it. The damage itself may be on the inside…
ROBBIE: … where you can’t see it with the naked eye.
ROBBIE: We actually developed an infrared camera that the astronauts can take out on an EVA and use to image the section of the RCC that they think may be damaged and evaluate it. And determine whether there is damage inside or not.
CHRIS: So there could be a crack on the inside of the leading edge that you couldn’t see visibly with the naked eye.
CHRIS: That you could use with the camera.
ROBBIE: But you could pick it up with that camera.
BLAIR: Probably a lot like Franklin, who in suffering some bone trauma, if I’m not mistaken, probably couldn’t see specifically what was going on the outside. You take an x-ray and you see it’s like a Lego set that hadn’t been put together on the inside.
FRANKLIN: Actually I need a GPS system so I can see that trail a little bit better.
FRANKLIN: Probably some goggles with a head-up display to see around corners. I don’t know.
CHRIS: Last time we had you on the show, one of the orbiters had a hole on the bottom section…
BLAIR: Ah, yes. That’s right.
CHRIS: … on one of the tiles. So Langley took a lead role in examining that hole and making sure that it was safe for landing.
ROBBIE: Right. That’s another piece of the chart over here. If you look to the right center, the aero-heating tool development…
ROBBIE: These are some analytical tools that Langley has developed that can actually go look at damage sites to the TPS…
CHRIS: Thermal Protection System.
BLAIR: I was looking for some clarification on that.
ROBBIE: Right. And determine how that affects the heating when they come back into the atmosphere. Because anytime you have a tuberance or a bump on your outer skin or a cavity, it makes the airflow trip over it and creates excessive heating down stream of that.
CHRIS: So from now on every time a shuttle goes up, Langley, the Research Center, is on standby for any support.
ROBBIE: We are on call and we actually support each mission with people at JSC and people here at Langley that are standing by. And if they have a damage site that needs to be evaluated, the Damage Assessment Team at Johnson Space Center evaluates it. Then they pass the data on to the Aerothermo-dynamic people and they run the models to determine whether the heating is going to be excessive or not.
ROBBIE: The IR camera actually lives on the Space Station right now. So, it’s now used at all unless it’s needed.
CHRIS: So it’s there just in case.
ROBBIE: But a cool thing about that particular feature is it can be used for things other than what it was developed for.
CHRIS: Oh really.
BLAIR: Cross platform.
ROBBIE: Yeah. Say if they have electrical panels that they thought they had excessive current coming out of a particular circuit, they could use that camera to detect that.
CHRIS: That’s cool.
BLAIR: Do they generally use that camera to do that kind of testing? Does it always involve an EVA?
ROBBIE: If they use it they way it was developed for the reinforced carbon-carbon wing leading edge, yes, they have to use it for EVA. So an astronaut has to actually physically take it out and image the wing surface.
CHRIS: Oh, that’s awesome. Look. No matter if it’s Winter X Games, if it’s an astronaut with NASA, everyone needs a support crew.
BLAIR: Well, it’s interesting thinking about materials. Because I remember one time we were watching rehearsals out there. And Kristi Leskinen, who we interviewed for the show, she came down to the bottom. I’ve rented skis before and they’re really solid and hers were incredibly flexible, which might lend itself to more damage. I don’t know if you could use something like that there but I’m sure people are evaluating those kinds of things all the time. And make sure you can have a better run based on the integrity of the material.
FRANKLIN: I’m going to tell you another thing. They also had a very good support group at the infirmary.
FRANKLIN: They can pass you along pretty quickly.
ROBBIE: That’s a good thing.
CHRIS: They put you back together.
BLAIR: He’s no Humpty Dumpty.
CHRIS: Well Robby, I want to thank you for coming back again.
ROBBIE: Thanks for having me.
CHRIS: I really appreciate explaining to us just how important it is to have a support crew at NASA. Not just for the shuttle but for any mission that we do.
BLAIR: That’s right because obviously, we’re going to play a role in the future Aries I, Aries V and the Orion.
ROBBIE: That’s right. I certainly hope so.
CHRIS: You’re watching NASA Edge.
BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.
CHRIS: Thanks a lot for coming on the show.
ROBBIE: Thank you.
BLAIR: This is great. Thank you sir.
Page Editor: Blair Allen