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NASA Langley Research Center Director, Lesa Roe


ANNOUNCER: Humans living and working in space. How is NASA Langley Research Center supporting efforts for humans to continue to work in low-Earth orbit and eventually in deep space? Center Director, Lesa Roe, explains on NASA EDGE.


LESA: Hey, how are you guys? Good to see you.

CHRIS: Good to see you again. Yes.

LESA: Welcome, would you like some coffee?

BLAIR: Ah, I’d love some. Perfect.

LESA: Okay, why don’t you go get us some? I’ll have cream and sugar in mine, please. We’ll get going while you go do that.

CHRIS: Mine’s black. Okay. Thanks for having us today. This is a nice building.

LESA: Ah, thank you, brand new. Thank you.

CHRIS: Okay.

[Door shut]

CHRIS: Thank you so much for agreeing to talk with us today about human space exploration. What is Langley’s role in support of human space exploration?

LESA: We work closely with Johnson. We work closely with Marshall in developing the vehicles that they’re currently working on. That’s been our traditional role in our history. That’s been the kind of things we’ve worked on. We do all kinds of things, everything from doing the aero database for the space launch system; the new heavy lift vehicle that’s getting built today. Also, we work on the landing systems for the Orion vehicle being designed at Johnson Space Center. We work on the launch abort system that would take the crew to safety in the event of an emergency. We actually lead that here at Langley and work very closely with Johnson Space Center in doing that. So, there’s a number of roles, everything from structure and materials, that’s where our expertise lies. Aero sciences is another key area, by that, I mean flying through an atmosphere. That’s aero sciences. We understand from a research standpoint the fundamental physics of how that works. So, when you’re actually modeling a new launch vehicle and you need to know how it’s going to perform as it flies through the atmosphere. That’s the kind of things we do. We have large wind tunnels that we can actually do tests of models here and understand the heating on that vehicle as it’s going to fly through the atmosphere; understand how it’s going to perform. We work heavily in guidance, navigation and controls; how that vehicle is going to control as it flies through the atmosphere. Also, nanomaterials, very, very small structures are all kind of the things we work on.

[Coffee pouring]

BLAIR: Oh hey, Franklin.

FRANKLIN: Oh man, I heard Langley has the best coffee.

BLAIR: Perfect. I was looking for coffee. Franklin! Ah!


BLAIR: Oh, gosh.

CHRIS: Where do you see Langley’s role let’s say 5, 10, 15 years down the road?

LESA: We’re looking at new technologies to be able to take large masses down to the surface of Mars. That’s another thing in our history. We led the very first landings on Mars.

CHRIS: Viking.

LESA: Yeah. So, we’ve maxed out that technology; these large parachutes to get down to the surface of Mars. Today, we need something new and different. We’re working on these inflatable decelerators; these hypersonic, inflatable, aerodynamic decelerators.


LESA: HIAD. Yeah, HIAD, that’s exactly right. If you’re going to take humans down to the surface of Mars, they’re going to need a few things; some food, some water.

CHRIS: Right.

LESA: Just different things like that. To be actually able to do that we’re going to need new technologies that can get large masses down to the surface and that’s what HIAD is all about.

CHRIS: Sounds like it’s a game changing technology where it could change the way we study the planets or actually explore planets.

LESA: That’s exactly right. It is a game changing technology, and it actually falls under the game changing programming.

CHRIS: Look at that. It just falls right in there.

LESA: Yeah.

BLAIR: Yes, very good. All right. It’s like a coffee shortage in this place.


CHRIS: Are we playing any role in commercial space?

LESA: Yeah, we absolutely are. We’re working in Sierra Nevada, Boeing, also Space X. They’re all doing testing here, working with some of our subject matter experts in different areas where they really kind of need some help. That’s working out really well. We have some great partnerships there. Sometimes they’re coming in and testing in our wind tunnels.

CHRIS: Right.

LESA: They want to see how their vehicle performs. We’re a great place to do that, matter of fact, probably one of the only places to do that depending on what they’re trying to do and what they’re trying to learn about their vehicle. We’re really proud to be commercial partners and helping these folks be successful in the future. We need them in the future to actually enable getting humans to low-Earth orbit. That's part of our plan.

CHRIS: I see a model behind you on a stand and it looks like it’s an old model of HL-20.

LESA: Yes.

CHRIS: I understand Sierra Nevada is using that concept for their Dream Chaser vehicle. Can you explain to us that relationship where you kind of worked on it back in the eighties?

LESA: Yeah.

CHRIS: And now, it’s coming back to life again.

LESA: Yeah, worked on it back in the eighties and that’s the concept they’re moving forward with. We have a lot of folks that have come out of retirement to help out with that because they’re just so excited to see that concept actually go to flight. Sierra Nevada has just been a wonderful partner in working with.

CHRIS: Where do you see NASA and where do you see the world in 2069 with regards to space exploration?

LESA: Well, let’s see, by 2069 we should have people actually living on Mars.

CHRIS: Boots on the ground?

LESA: Boots on the ground.

CHRIS: 2069.

LESA: Probably greater than that, boots on the ground should be by the late 20’s, 30’s I would say.

CHRIS: Okay.

LESA: But actually living on Mars by the 2060’s. You said 2069.

CHRIS: Right.

LESA: That’s plenty of time to get up there, get to having colonies on other planets but also continuing to explore our own galaxy and knowing a lot about the other Earth-like planets that exist outside of our galaxy. That’s the thing that drew me to NASA in the first place. We’re defining history, right now, the things that we do within NASA. That’s just incredible. The spacecraft that we put in orbit that actually study other planets, we’re learning how our own Earth was formed. I find that just incredibly exciting.

BLAIR: Uh, hmm, a little Sumatra for the administer.



BLAIR: Hmm. Maybe they’ve relocated. Oh ah, that’s going to mark. That’s going to burn.

CHRIS: Okay, he’s gone. Speaking about Blair, do you ever get heat from the other Center Directors for allowing him to work here at Langley?

LESA: We don’t admit to him actually working here. We kind of keep that under wraps.

CHRIS: Oh really?

LESA: Yeah.

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