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NASA EDGE: Mission X 2012
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NASA EDGE: Mission X 2012

Mission X 2012 in London
- Nubia Carvajal

- Yamil Garcia

- Jeremy Curtis

- Shamim Hartevelt

- Paolo Nespoli

- Shin Yamada

- Jane Connor

- Montell Douglas


ANNOUNCER: London, one of the world’s most historic and beautiful cities and the location of Mission X 2012. Mind the gap and join NASA EDGE as they webcast live from the Cumberland School in East London, as kids from around the world train like an astronaut.


CHRIS: We have some very important interviews today. All right?

BLAIR: Uh hum.

CHRIS: I need to run down a few things.

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: Give me your best question that you’re going to ask about Mission X?

BLAIR: My best question about Mission X?

CHRIS: Yeah.

BLAIR: You seriously want to know what my best question is?

CHRIS: What is your best question about Mission X?

BLAIR: My best question about Mission X is on an effectiveness scale…

CHRIS: Okay.

BLAIR: If I were in middle school, would I become interested in Math, Science, Technology and Engineering?

CHRIS: Interesting? Judges, what do you think? Two? Three? Okay. We’re going to try this again because that’s out of 10.

BLAIR: That wasn’t good enough?

CHRIS: Obviously, because that was 2, and 3. We have to do this again.

BLAIR: Does Mission X have any possibility of helping us understand the food pyramid better?




BLAIR: You’re hurting me, man. What are you doing?

CHRIS: You’ve got to realize a food pyramid is just to the United States.

BLAIR: Okay, I’m sorry. What is it over here? What is it, the food obelisk?

CHRIS: Let’s try another one.

BLAIR: Okay, try another one.

CHRIS: Yeah.

BLAIR: Uh huh. Oh, you need another of the same question? Okay.

CHRIS: Obviously, you’ve given two bad questions based on the judging.

BLAIR: All right, all right. A good question… um. In one month, in which month does a Mission X student actually show progress in the program?

[Chris & Blair laughing]

CHRIS: Two. One. I’m sorry. Okay, we’re going to have to go ahead and get back to you guys later on these questions.

BLAIR: Those are very legitimate questions. Come on. I like the food obelisk.

CHRIS: Welcome to NASA EDGE.

BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.

FRANKLIN: At the Cumberland School in East London.

BLAIR: For Mission X 2012.

CHRIS: Train Like an Astronaut.

BLAIR: I’ve got to tell you I’m really excited to be back into a school environment again.

CHRIS: I tell you if we had something like this back home, this indoor track facility I’d be here every day.

BLAIR: I might have actually grown up an athlete, which would be nice.

BLAIR: Now Nubia, you’ve worked on this for a while. Tell me, how did you get involved and how did the whole Mission X, TLA activities come about?

NUBIA: First of all, we wanted to make very motivating, inspiring activities. We wanted to connect them to space as well as we were very concerned with the obesity in youth. We got together, with that in mind, and we created Mission X Train Like an Astronaut.

CHRIS: Now Yamil, you’re an astronaut trainer.

YAMIL: That is correct.

CHRIS: Working with astronauts on a daily basis, what a cool job that is.

BLAIR: Absolutely.

CHRIS: You were instrumental in working on the physical side of the activities, weren’t you?

YAMIL: Yes, I was.

CHRIS: Now, take us on a run through of all those type of activities that you developed.

YAMIL: The activities that we have work on agility, muscle, endurance muscle, strength. The same things we do with the astronauts and they’re all based on activities that I actually have performed with the astronauts. They’ve been modified with help of educators such as Nubia and other educators we’ve worked together in trying to get the children to be healthy, physically active, better nutrition, and then through all that, train like an astronaut.

CHRIS: And not only from the physical side but, Nubia, from the classroom side in terms of the science, you’ve developed some activities that kids can do in the classroom.

NUBIA: Yes, this is the science behind the physical activities. We have four of them. Three were created by NASA, and one was created by ESA. We’re not only talking about nutrition, which we do, but we also touch into their physical, such as bone mass. We talk about muscle and hydration.

BLAIR: Even someone with my physique, I could actually participate in some of these classroom activities.

NUBIA: Of course, anybody can participate. You have to be inspired to be an astronaut, that’s all.

BLAIR: Oh well, I’ve got that in spades.

FRANKLIN: Jeremy, what is it about sports, science, athleticism, and nutrition that you want to get across to kids?

JEREMY: The thing we’ve always found in the past is it’s easy to get kids interested in Science and Technology using space. But here was an opportunity to get kids who aren’t really interested in Science and Technology to understand a bit more about the background to it. I think this is one of those rare examples of a fantastic crossover between different parts of the school curriculum. Rather than going to the school and saying here we have something that will help you teach a little bit of Physics, they can’t use it in anything else. You go in and do it once, and that’s it, finished. With this, you have activities across the school weeks and weeks. We have schools that have done all sorts of other activities. They’ve had community events. They’ve come up with menus for astronauts. They’ve done music, literature, and they’ve done art. It’s fantastic reaching a lot of different areas. We want to get all those kids who may only be interested in one aspect to learn about all the others as a result of the excitement of space.

FRANKLIN: Has there been a way that the UK Space Agency can measure the effectiveness of this Mission X program?

JEREMY: That’s really difficult but what we can do is to see how many people took part last year, which was about 500 in the UK and how many have taken part this year, which is about 4,000. So we’ve already gone up by one big magnitude in one year. If we do the same in the next year, we may find we’ve bitten off a little more than we can chew but we certainly plan to keep expanding it. If teachers tell us, as they have done, that it works for them, that’s good enough for me.

FRANKLIN: How important was it to have the Olympics and Mission X all going on at the same time? Did it draw more attention to your cause?

JEREMY: Yes, certainly. This was one of the things we discussed with the international group. Last year, we had a big meeting and discussed where we wanted to hold the first international Mission X event. Everybody agreed that the Olympics was the perfect place to do it in London in 2012. That’s why were here now. We think it’s helping a lot and it’s very easy to explain how the two things link together. Because both of them are about improving performance, doing the best you can, and understanding how fitness and diet work together.

FRANKLIN: What about for bigger guys, like myself?

JEREMY: What about them?

FRANKLIN: Is there a program out here that can help us?

JEREMY: You can take part too. It doesn’t prevent you from taking part because we’re aiming at the kids.

FRANKLIN: It’s just not for kids. Adults can also learn from this.

JEREMY: Absolutely. We’ve got this week the parents and teachers of a lot of the kids from around the world joining us here in London taking part in activities. We’re going to make sure the parents are involved too if we possibly can. They’ll be given the chance to get some exercise too.

CHRIS: How did ESA get involved in Mission X?

SHAMIM: ESA was involved in the collaboration during the initial pilot scheme, the pilot of Mission X. After that it was really a matter of taking it on the rest of the 20 member state countries.

BLAIR: And in the past, how have the kids been responding? Has this been a momentum building activity?

SHAMIM: Yes, because I think what you find is as soon as the kids start getting involved with what they’re doing it’s not just thinking about healthy food, and about nutrition, and exercise. It’s about team building, about getting to know each other, learning things from children from other countries. It becomes an international affair. As a result, of course, that just lends itself to a whole new excitement.

BLAIR: And that’s one of the things that has been really exciting for us being here at the school and in London this week. Huge diversity of students from all different kinds of cultures and backgrounds, all doing the same activities, all performing quite well; very exciting to see.

CHRIS: Where do you envision Mission X 2012 in the next year and the year beyond?

SHAMIM: Just getting bigger and bigger.

CHRIS: How many students from Europe participated?

SHAMIM: Well, from the European side, I'm not absolutely 100% but I think there are nearly 10,500 students.


CHRIS: Wow! Do you think you’ll double that next year?

SHAMIM: We hope so.

BLAIR: You know what will be interesting? Eventually, years out, when we can actually identify the first astronaut in the real astronaut corps either NASA or ESA, that actually participated in a Mission X event. Wouldn’t that be cool?

SHAMIM: Wouldn’t that be cool? Yeah.

[Students cheering]

FRANKLIN: I understand you’ve gone through one of the activities so far this morning. Explain to me what you did.

BRANDON: Well, it’s called building an astronaut’s core. It’s like doing a push up but when you go on the ground, you have to hold your fists straight and hold it for one minute.

FRANKLIN: How long did you hold it for?

BRANDON: For one minute, 30 seconds.

FRANKLIN: One minute, 30 seconds, that’s pretty long.


FRANKLIN: Building an astronaut’s core is one of the activities and exercises that astronauts have to go through to become an astronaut. Do you think you might want to be an astronaut one day?

BRANDON: Well, maybe.

FRANKLIN: You like sports?


FRANKLIN: What’s your favorite sport?

BRANDON: Football.

FRANKLIN: Football. Are you any good?

BRANDON: Yep. I’m kind of the best. Yeah, I really am.

BLAIR: We’re here with an ESA astronaut, European Space Agency astronaut, Paolo Nespoli. It’s so exciting to be here.

PAOLO: Hello, hello, everybody. It’s very nice, actually, it’s a very nice place here.

CHRIS: Tell us about your experience with Mission X.

PAOLO: Mission X, yes. Mission X started about a year ago. I was in space. We kicked it off. I was up there trying to do my part, train like an astronaut. I’ve been doing that for many years.

BLAIR: Of course.

PAOLO: In space, of course, physical fitness and nutrition are very important. We try to practice this Train Like an Astronaut and it worked.

BLAIR: So the astronauts up on station or in space were doing similar kinds of exercise?

PAOLO: Absolutely. We were doing two hours of physical fitness exercise per day because in space the muscles don’t work anymore. The heart doesn’t pump the same way it does on earth, so we do a protocol that requires us to do about an hour of cardiovascular exercise per day, which means bicycle or what’s it called in English? I forgot.

BLAIR: A treadmill?

PAOLO: A treadmill, that’s what it is. I get confused with all these languages sometimes.

BLAIR: I do too and I only know one language.

PAOLO: Yeah, there we go. Then we do another hour of resistance exercise. We do weights in space, which is quite interesting because now you’re in a weightless environment and you do weights. There is a machine that actually allows you to do that. You can compress your muscles and make them work even in space.

CHRIS: You’ve been on station. How many days were you on station?

PAOLO: 159 days, that was the last long duration mission.

CHRIS: Okay, that’s a long time. When you returned back to Earth, how long did it take you to get back into your pre-condition?

PAOLO: It’s interesting because on the ground while training you do not train every day. You train like 3 times a week more or less. And then in space you train every single day. Strangely enough you come back and from a physical fitness point of view you are fitter than when you went up.

CHRIS: Oh wow. Okay.

BLAIR: I’ve got to go.

PAOLO: Though, this is the trick. Though the muscles don’t work in the same way, the spine elongates, the muscles have a different center point. I kind of find myself kind of shaking. It takes a little bit before everything settles down again.

CHRIS: When you’re working out in space, do you have a set program each day? Does NASA or ESA provide you with a regimen?

PAOLO: We do have trainers that work with us for the years before… Usually the mission training is about 2 to 2 ½ year period. During this period with your trainers on the ground, you develop a program then you go in space and continue that. Of course, things are slightly different. They feel different. The machines feel different. The body feels different so you talk continuously with your trainers on the ground and they see the results that come back on Earth. We modify a little bit to adjust for these changes.

CHRIS: Is it fair to say there was a difference when you were on station then when you went up on STS-120 on shuttle in terms or your post-flight, your condition? You probably didn’t lose as much muscles mass.

PAOLO: Yeah, the shuttle flight was a long flight. One of the longest flights the shuttle did but it was 15 days. In 15 days, you actually lose a little bit but not much. In fact, I was kind of spaced out even when I came back from 15 days. I could barely walk. And again, it is very subjective. Usually taller people have many more problems then the smaller people. Yeah, you would fair really well.

CHRIS: What we’re going to do is it’s been a little bit of time since you’ve been up in space. What we want you to do is taste some of the samples we have here and we’re going to ask you if it’s earth food or space food.


CHRIS: Do you think you’re able? Here’s what we’re going to do. The first thing we’re going to try is some scrambled eggs.

PAOLO: Let me see if I’ve got this right. You have two here. One is coming from space.

CHRIS: One’s from earth.

PAOLO: Meaning what? Coming from Mars, what?

CHRIS: Well, you’re actually eating it on station.

PAOLO: Ah, it’s food that we take up.

CHRIS: In space, that’s right. The other packet is something you would buy at a local store market.

BLAIR: All this has been approved by mothers around the world. It’s all safe.

CHRIS: I’ll hold your microphone.

PAOLO: Let’s see.

BLAIR: Go ahead there.

PAOLO: This looks pretty to see. Mm, mm, mm.

BLAIR: Is it bringing back some memories?

PAOLO: Actually, yes. Really, it does.

CHRIS: All right, let’s try this one. See what you think.

BLAIR: Try #2, this also eggs for our audience.

CHRIS: Which one is this? Space food?

PAOLO: I think that was the space food.

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: Very good. That’s correct.

BLAIR: Are we going to wait till the end?

CHRIS: No, we have to tell him. That’s correct. He’s got one point.

BLAIR: Okay, all right.

CHRIS: Let’s go to the next one.

PAOLO: One of the things is for some reason space food is a little bit more tasty than the other. You know why?


PAOLO: It’s because the theory is when you’re in space for a long time you actually lose some of the capabilities of tasting food. So, they pump up a little bit on the flavor so when you’re there for a long time you still feel you’re eating something instead of eating cardboard. That one tastes much, much more than the other one. I would prefer to taste this on earth but I feel that is the space one.

BLAIR: That has a nostalgia moment, right?

PAOLO: Yes, yes.

CHRIS: Let’s try one more.

PAOLO: Tomato basil soup, it was my preferred. I don’t even need to… it’s that one.



PAOLO: It’s that one. Tomato basil soup, I ate it so much.

BLAIR: A definitive non-tasting moment.

PAOLO: I had it so much.

CHRIS: Just confirmation.

BLAIR: But he’s already made his decision?

CHRIS: He’s made his decision but just for confirmation. Yeah, okay, that’s a no brainer, right?

PAOLO: Brings back good memories.

BLAIR: Wait, from home or from space.

PAOLO: From space, space, space.

BLAIR: Okay.

PAOLO: Definitely.

CHRIS: Actually, Blair made that.

BLAIR: We can’t bring up brands. Moving onto the last one.

PAOLO: Yeah, that cannot be space food.

BLAIR: Oh, interesting.

CHRIS: Why would that be? Too saucy?

PAOLO: This is rehydrated. Yeah, this is it. All right, here we go.

CHRIS: Okay, you’ve actually…

PAOLO: Space, space, space, space, space, space. This is the space tray. That’s the earth bound tray.

CHRIS: Very good.

FRANKLIN: What are you looking forward to doing today as far as activities are concerned?

MEGHAN: I’m looking forward to meeting lots of different children from around the world.

FRANKLIN: We do have a good delegation of kids here from around the world.

CHRIS: Do a lot of the students involved in Mission X want to be come astronauts?



SHIN: Yes.

CHRIS: Okay.

BLAIR: Would JAXA be willing to consider a non-Japanese person to be an astronaut like myself?

SHIN: You?


CHRIS: I think that says it all right there.

BLAIR: It’s unfortunate. I can’t even go cross-cultural.

SHIN: I want to be a NASA astronaut.

CHRIS: There you go.

BLAIR: See, if you can be a NASA astronaut, maybe I could be a JAXA. We could do an astronaut exchange program.

SHIN: Ah, that’s a good idea.

BLAIR: See, redemption. There you go.

COACH: Push the ball to the middle. Push the ball to the middle. Let’s go. Push. Run, run young man. Let’s go!

BLAIR: Yes, we’re here with Jane Connor who works with the National Health Service in East London. You’re involved with this program called Health Legacy Program. What exactly is a health legacy?

JANE: It’s a program that is trying to ensure that the people, the community who hosted the games this year, actually over the longer term will benefit from the investment we had in the games. Because the Olympics have got this slogan about faster, stronger, higher but the reality for a lot of people, adults and children in this area, is that their health is not very good. Their incomes are low. And their environment isn’t so great. The National Health Service along with other partners wants to use the investment in the games to transform situations of people who live here and create real long-term benefits. The heart of that is actually improving people’s health and well-being.

BLAIR: Take me back a little bit, beginning when they hadn’t even decided on London. East London, in particular, was an area that was run down or impoverished?

JANE: Yes, impoverished; its history of industry and the docks that actually a lot of the industries had declined; very high levels of unemployment. In fact the area has been very similar for the last hundred years. It’s been the poorest part of London and some of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom.

BLAIR: How did Health Services get involved in this whole process?

JANE: Well, it became clear around 2000 that there was serious discussion about having the Olympic games in London, that London would make a proper bid for the games. We thought if you’re going to have the games why don’t you have it in a place where you can have the biggest impact, and the biggest change. The National Health Service along with the local government in East London lobbied from the start of 2000 that the games should be in East London. We pointed out there is a massive opportunity because the land exists in East London because of all these old industries.

BLAIR: That’s a very good point.

JANE: We said let’s pull together a bid that very clearly says we’re going to use the Olympic games to physically and socially transform the area. We’re going to use the Olympics to drive forward regeneration of this very poor, deprived part of London.

BLAIR: Now, if I were able to retire and move to London, East London in particular, ten years from now, I would have great training facilities to keep up this incredible physique I’ve got going.

JANE: You would have, indeed. You’d have world-class sports, and physical activities but also you’d have the biggest, new park in Europe for 100 years. You’d have open space. You’d have a place where you could walk, where you could run, where you could jog, where you could cycle. You’d have much better connectivity throughout the area and also you’d have long-term jobs created. You’d have, even if you retired, there would be jobs perhaps for your children or grandchildren as well.

BLAIR: Oh great!

FRANKLIN: I was reading a little bit about you. You are a Commonwealth gold medal winner in the 100-meter?

MONTELL: No, actually I am, yes, a gold medal winner but actually in the 4x1 100-meter relay. We won as a team event for England. That was in 2010. That was my first big gold medal. It is really special to me.

FRANKLIN: I’ve also read where you are called or considered or are the fastest woman in the UK. Is that right?

MONTELL: Yes, I am. I broke the British record in 2008 a day before my graduation. It was about three weeks before the Olympic games. Now, I’m pretty sure I can hold on.

FRANKLIN: The fastest woman?

MONTELL: Yes, the fastest woman ever. Don’t forget the ever.

FRANKLIN: [laughing] The fastest woman ever. Do you have a story about being the fastest woman ever or running into people who don’t know you’re the fastest woman?

MONTELL: All the time. My mom told everyone. She’ll tell people at the supermarket. I’m using the States to train for a few months during the year. I was in Ross in the States trying to get my bits together for my apartment and had met a guy who does triathlons and was talking with him for about 20 minutes. I got to the counter about to pay for my stuff and he literally stands there with his IPhone and Googles me and shouts across the front of the que. There are 25 people now staring at me. I didn’t know you were the fastest woman in Britain. You didn't tell me that. I was like you didn’t ask. I get that all the time. People always ask me, “Are you fast?” I don’t really want to say, “Yeah, I’m the fastest woman ever.” I just usually say, Yeah, I’m okay.

FRANKLIN: That’s very modest.

MONTELL: I’m humble. My mom told me not to. She used to be a bit more. I’ve been raised that way and sometimes I almost forget that I’m the British record holder. I just try to improve myself every year, trying to push myself to be better. That’s the impression I take on it.

FRANKLIN: But you are the fastest?

MONTELL: I am the fastest.

YAMIL: We’re very happy to have everybody. It’s been a great partnership. Everybody is looking forward to the next generation, to get them healthier, and it is something that is needed around fitness, nutrition, and you add the theme of human space flight and it is a dream come true. I’m very proud to be a part of this. My team has worked hard alongside other space agencies. We’re really, really happy.

CHRIS: There are a lot of people we have to think.

BLAIR: Yes, that’s true and worked hard and hopefully didn’t pull anything on the rowing machine.


BLAIR: We do have to think a lot of people. There are so many people that made this event possible. Specifically, not to mention, all the people that support the program all the time. Heather MacRae and her team; everyone over here in the UK assembling this event, working with the school, the teachers, the kids from all over that actually travelled in to participate. This was a big event, a great event. We just want to express our gratitude and thanks to them for doing such a tremendous job.

CHRIS: And this also is a great jump-start for 2013.

BLAIR: Yes, yes.

CHRIS: First time we’ve had a huge event like this. Let’s continue that drive and let’s keep going for 2013.

YAMIL: That’s the plan and that’s what we hope to do.

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