NASA Podcasts

NE@Mission X
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NE@MissionX Transcript

Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut
- Ali Llewellen

NASA EDGE has always been interested in astronauts, astronaut training and fitness, however, Mission X provides the perfect opportunity to explore all three. Plus, Mission X covers all three for students in the United States and around the world. Ali Llewellyn stops by the NASA EDGE Studio to talk about Mission X and even challenge the Co-host with an exercise in tactility. Next question? Will Mission X take on the challenge of teaching kids by showing them how to train like a medianaut?

WOMAN: Mission X has begun. A competition worldwide; be the best you can be. Become a fit explorer. The challenge starts now.

[Intro Music]

CHRIS: Welcome to NASA EDGE…

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

CHRIS: We’re here to recap Mission X, Train Like An Astronaut.

BLAIR: We want to congratulate all those who participated, because throughout this event, you actually walked all the way to the moon. Good job.

CHRIS: With us is Ali Llewellyn from NASA, who worked on Mission X. How are you doing Ali?

ALI: Great! I’m really excited to be here.

BLAIR: Ali, what exactly is Mission X, Train Like An Astronaut?

ALI: You see, Mission X is a partnership of international space agencies that had done so much human research in space. They decided they should put all that work to good use; getting kids excited about having a healthy lifestyle. So, they taught them to train like an astronaut.

CHRIS: Now when you talk about a healthy lifestyle, you’re talking about physical fitness, muscle tone…

ALI: Physical fitness, muscle, bones, healthy nutrition but also teamwork, collaboration, how to think creatively, all these subjects we work together at Mission X.

CHRIS: Who are some of the partners that participated in Mission X?

ALI: Well, there were nine countries that hosted Challenge Teams for the first round of Mission X. These included Austria, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Columbia, the UK, and, of course, here in the U.S. Japan also participated and several other partner institutions like universities and planetariums.

CHRIS: People are probably wondering why the heck is there a big jar of M&Ms on our table. What’s that represent?

BLAIR: Despite the fact that I’m ready to dive in the jar at any given moment.

CHRIS: Yeah, I know.

ALI: You see, we thought it would start off as a small project with maybe a hundred students but we ended up with 3,900 students, who participated, training like astronauts, earning points so they could walk to the moon.

BLAIR: How did that work? How did they actually walk to the moon? I have trouble walking down the street in my neighborhood. How did they get all the way to the moon?

ALI: Well you guys, there’s two kinds of activities in Mission X. One are the physical activities where you might do an agility course or strength training, and the other kind are science activities that use education to look at the science behind the fitness. We might look at bone strength and what makes bones strong, or how much fat there is in a cheeseburger and French fries. There’s this activity right here.

BLAIR: Yeah. I was going to say you gave me these. You call these work gloves.

ALI: Work gloves.

BLAIR: I’m not sure what that means but anyway…

ALI: This activity is called Crew Assembly.

BLAIR: Okay.

ALI: You take what looks like an easy task…

BLAIR: Fair enough.

ALI: like this little puzzle, and then you add some complication. Having big gloves all the sudden takes an easy task and makes it hard. You lose strength. You lose tactility, and you have to work together in a different way to accomplish your task.

CHRIS: So this simulates what astronauts would do out on the station or the shuttle when they’re doing EVAs?

ALI: Absolutely. They work together do to things that might be simple but become a lot harder in space.

BLAIR: And for our purposes here, I’ll take the outside pieces, because that’s more difficult, and you can take the real simple inside parts.

ALI: I’ll take the inside part.

BLAIR: Okay, great. I’ll work on that now.

CHRIS: Now that the program is over and we had 3,900 successful students, and you made it to the moon?

ALI: We did make it to the moon.

CHRIS: And I believe it was 470 million steps.

ALI: 478 million steps, it takes. It would take you 9 years walking at a normal pace.

BLAIR: Or 18 at my pace.

CHRIS: If they’re training like an astronaut, this paves the way to a healthy lifestyle in the future.

ALI: It really does. Because, you see, as the World Health Organization has pointed out, childhood obesity is the most pressing health problem that we face in the 21st century. Even here, in the U.S., the first lady has developed the Let’s Move initiative. So, schools are always looking for ways to develop partnerships to get kids excited about fitness. So teachers have said not only does this help get kids excited, but it’s teaching my students science, technology, and engineering. Getting them thinking about things that are really exciting for students.

CHRIS: The great thing about this program is behind the scenes, Blair and I were going to your website. It’s and reading the blogs. Teachers are posting blogs posts, pictures, and video. It’s really good to see how the kids are progressing through the activity.

ALI: It was. And to see how different it was in all the different countries but still a lot the same.

CHRIS: Actually, I wish Blair would’ve started this particular task months ago. It would have taken him that long to put that together.

BLAIR: I’m actually posting comments now because there’s a piece missing. Clearly, there’s a problem with this activity. Because tactility or not, when you can’t…. Can you find a piece? I’m looking for the edge piece and I can’t find the…

CHRIS: While he’s doing that, let’s check out our international students in action training like an astronaut.


CHRIS: Maybe next year, if Mission X continues, maybe we can go to Mars instead of the moon.

ALI: Absolutely.

CHRIS: The question is how many steps would it be to get to Mars?

BLAIR: I don’t know but I can tell you whatever creative solution you come up with, don’t walk to the sun.


BLAIR: Bad idea. There’s not enough SPF out there to protect you should you walk all the way to the sun.


YOUNG BLAIR: Die cruel star.

BLAIR: Very important safety tip.

CHRIS: Again, I want to thank the 3,900 kids, all the teachers, even the parents I’m sure that participated…

ALI: Absolutely.

CHRIS: … in the project. It was very successful. Hopefully next year, you’ll be back and better than ever.

BLAIR: I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you work on the outside pieces and I’ll work on the inside pieces, ‘cause I’ve got some really interesting ideas here.

CHRIS: You’re watching NASA EDGE, an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

BLAIR: I still think something is missing. I don’t know what it is. It’s not the gloves.

MAN: We’re really happy to be a part of Mission X and this ESA project. We’re having fun and we’re gettin’ fit.

STUDENTS: Space fit five!

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