NASA Podcasts

NASA EDGE: Constellation
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February 17, 2009

NASA is going back to the Moon. But how? The simple answer is Constellation. NASA EDGE gives an overview of the vehicles of Constellation before taking a closer look at several new features. From the huge new Lightning Protection System to experimental design technology, NASA EDGE gives you a front row seat to this exciting next step in exploration. And NASA EDGE introduces a new segment, Viewer Voice Mail, or more questions that the Co-Host can’t answer. Good luck to Chris, Franklin and Sten the Intern.


Constellation Overview by NASA EDGE

Interview with Jon Cowart – Lightning Protection System

Interview with Terry McGugin – Parachute Processing Facility

Interviews with Brad Lawrence, Bob Mills and Lora Ridgwell – Motion Tracking

Viewer Voice Mail


CHRIS: Welcome to NASA EDGE…

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

BLAIR: The big word for today, Constellation.


BLAIR: Yeah, the letter, “c.”

CHRIS: When did we do “A” and “B?” Are we just skipping?

BLAIR: Um, Ares.

CHRIS: Yeah. What about “B?”

FRANKLIN: Black hole.

[Blair & Chris laughing]

CHRIS: There you go.

BLAIR: It’s a regular space glossary around here.

CHRIS: And “C,” constellation. Little “c” or big “C?”

BLAIR: Little “c” and big “C” but we’re talking primarily about big “C” today. Franklin, what is big “C” Constellation?

FRANKLIN: It is a big program, the big “P” here at NASA.

BLAIR: Big “C” on the big “P.”

CHRIS: What I would like to do is focus in on the transportation architecture of Constellation, looking at the fleet. What’s next generation fleet going to look like in terms of spacecraft? In fact, we’ve been getting a lot of email from NASA EDGE viewers on what this transportation looks like, the architecture. What does this fleet look like? As you can see in the video, we’re developing two launch vehicles. The first launch vehicle is what you see here is called Ares I. That’s the launch vehicle that is going to take four lucky astronauts back to the moon.

BLAIR: And one “medianaut.”

CHRIS: Well, maybe three and one medianaut. We’ll have to see. They’re going to be launching from Kennedy. We have four lucky astronauts on their way into low-Earth orbit. Then we see now the first stage separation, which is going to be a SRB, which is a 5th segment solid rocket booster derived from shuttle technology.

FRANKLIN: Spoiler alert.

BLAIR: Spoiler alert?

FRANKLIN: No, we’re talking about SRB’s later on in the show.

CHRIS: That’s true. That’s true.

FRANKLIN: Parachute systems.

BLAIR: Not only that, that’s a Constellation spoiler.

FRANKLIN: That is a Constellation spoiler.

BLAIR: We’re not spoiler free.

CHRIS: This is the Orion spacecraft that you see here. This is what’s going to replace the shuttle.

BLAIR: Yes, and take us all the way to the moon because the shuttle can’t do that.

CHRIS: That’s right.

FRANKLIN: You know, Orion is the small “c” in the big “C.”

[Blair & Chris laughing]

CHRIS: That’s true. Then we’re going to be launching our next launch vehicle. This is the heavy-lift vehicle called Ares V. It’s our heavy cargo lifter.

BLAIR: It’s the 18-wheeler of our fleet.

CHRIS: I guess you could say that. It’s the heavy duty. This will be carrying the Altair Lunar Lander. And as you can see here, we have shuttle-derived parts just like the space shuttle with the two solid rocket boosters.

BLAIR: This is basically like a kit. We’re taking some old parts and we’re building a customized…

CHRIS: Why come up with something completely new when you can use shuttle-derived parts that are space-proven?

BLAIR: Good point.

FRANKLIN: With a few tweaks.

CHRIS: With some tweaks, that’s right. We have the earth departure stage, providing a lot of thrust.

BLAIR: Thrust is good as you often say.

CHRIS: That’s right. Now we see at the top of the earth departure stage we see the All-terra Lunar Lander. The Altair Lander is going to be able to hold all four astronauts.

FRANKLIN: You make it sound like an apartment.

BLAIR: I mean this is spacious living of the future.

CHRIS: The Orion spacecraft will rendezvous with the Earth departure stage that’s carrying the Lunar Lander. Once they get into lunar orbit, all four astronauts will transfer from the Orion Spacecraft into Altair to descend down to the lunar surface where they’ll be exploring just like Lewis and Clark did several hundred years ago.

BLAIR: Absolutely. Lunar Lewis and Clark.

CHRIS: That’s right. They’re going to be learning how to live off the land.

BLAIR: When you say living off the land for the moon, it does seem weird because you don’t envision a farm situation up there.

CHRIS: We might have… you never know.

BLAIR: I know. I know.

CHRIS: You’ve got to think outside of the box. It’s a system.

BLAIR: No inside the box because there’s no oxygen up there. Your box has to get oxygen.

CHRIS: Ah, but we can get oxygen from the surface. Once they’re done with their mission, they will ascend back up to rendezvous with the Orion spacecraft and now it’s time to come home. We’ll have the four astronauts coming home at blazing speeds. Once they’re ready to enter the earth’s atmosphere, they’ll be in the crew module. The question is why are we using a capsule design as opposed to a new design?

FRANKLIN: It works.

CHRIS: Yeah. Has physics changed in the last 30 years?

BLAIR: I don’t think so.

CHRIS: It sure didn’t. Physics hasn’t changed so why come up with something new when we know we have a capsule design or body design that works.

BLAIR: However, the one good thing is it’s bigger so we can take more people.

CHRIS: Absolutely.

BLAIR: That is important.

CHRIS: That’s true. It’s going to be much larger than the old Apollo capsule. Here we see the capsule landing in the water.

BLAIR: That’s very exciting. It’s inarguable. Constellation is one of the most exciting things out there. Flash forward 10 years. This is my question for you and Franklin. How is this going to work out in terms of conversation? Now you would say, “back at Apollo XI we went to the moon. Is Constellation like that in terms of a title? Is that going to be termed the catch phrase of NASA?

CHRIS: In ten years from now?

BLAIR: Oh yeah, we’re going to the moon on Constellation XI. Because there was Apollo on a Saturn rocket… there are all these different words. Is Constellation that word?

CHRIS: That’s a good question because you’re into doing proposals.

BLAIR: Right.

CHRIS: When you come with proposals you want to have that system approach.

BLAIR: That’s a good point because Constellation is a system. Right? Is there going to be that problem with it? Is Orion going to the moon or is it Constellation going to the moon? Can we do a catchall and say, “Constellation is heading to the moon?”

CHRIS: Depends if they call it that.

[Cell Phone Rings]

BLAIR: Hang on. Oh yeah, hang on, this is Sten. Yes, Sten. Oh good, good. But it’s the leaves in the clear plastic bags by the curb and dry cleaning. That’s it. It’s still light out. You should be able to do that. Okay, great. Thanks. Sorry, that’s just Sten, the intern.

CHRIS: What’s up with that?

FRANKLIN: Everybody else has to turn their cell phones off.

BLAIR: No, that’s Sten and you’re watching NASA EDGE with an intern and an inside and outside look at all things NASA. Sten is doing a little catch up work on the side. Is that so wrong?


FRANKLIN: Welcome back to NASA EDGE.

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

CHRIS: You know what? I really like your idea about naming the missions.

BLAIR: Thanks. I appreciate that Chris. It’s nice to be recognized. You see that Franklin, hard work pays off.

CHRIS: We’ll have a creative session.

FRANKLIN: What are you trying to say?

BLAIR: Finally one of my suggestions gets a little traction.

FRANKLIN: Okay, I can take that.

CHRIS: Let’s go ahead and look at the first Constellation project we looked at down at Kennedy. We traveled down to NASA Kennedy to see what they’re working on.

BLAIR: They’re working on a lot. What’s the first thing at there, Franklin, very important by the way?

FRANKLIN: The LPS or otherwise known as the Lightening Protection System.

BLAIR: I have to admit this came out of left field, as an outsider, hats off to NASA. I would never have thought that would have been an issue.

FRANKLIN: No, hats off to Benjamin Franklin.

[Chris & Blair laughing]

CHRIS: That’s a good point. It’s pretty cool. When you think of lightening protection systems, a lot of people take it for granted when the shuttle is on the pad or in the old days, when Saturn V was on the pad, there’s a lot of storms going on in south Florida. There’s a lot of lightening strikes so we need some type of system that’s going to protect the new vehicles.

BLAIR: Why don’t we take a look at the segment and we’ll talk about it afterwards.

CHRIS: Let’s do that.

CHRIS: Why do we need the Lightening Protection System for the Ares I-X and eventually the Ares I rocket?

JON: Obviously, you’re in Florida and rockets are going to be sitting out here during the summer. In this area we get thousands of lightening strikes every month, especially during the summer months. When we get to May, you may see 4,000 lightening strikes in this area. But next month you go above 90 degrees average daily high temperature it ramps up to over 25,000 strikes per month. You see that for the next three months. It’s what I call the “window of badness.” You don’t want to be launching a rocket between June, July, and August regrettably that’s where we’re heading.

BLAIR: Stay out of the WOB.

JON: … towards the WOB. Even during the winter months we have a pretty good probability. You need the lightening protection like you see back here. The shuttle has one right now. The thing we’re worried about with Aries I-X is not necessarily that you get hit by the bolt, but it creates a huge electro-magnetic pulse depending upon the size of the bolt. If that happens, we need to do a retest of all our avionics to make sure they weren’t affected by this big electro-magnetic pulse you get whenever there’s a lightening bolt. In the olds days there was this thing called the “Cone of Protection.” If you had the lightening mast sitting up there, you had a nice cone that protected everything underneath it.

BLAIR: Like the cone of silence.

JON: Exactly, Max. We now know that’s a bunch of bunk, just like the “cone of silence.”

BLAIR: Yeah, I tried. It never worked.

JON: Yeah, I know. The theory we use now is called rolling spheres. You want to provide as much protection as possible. We going to put the three towers up. We’ll string wires from each of them and there will be a pentagonal opening over the pad, that when the rocket lifts off it will fly through that opening. It gives you much better lightening protection than what we have today.

CHRIS: What’s the purpose of the wires connecting the towers?

JON: They provide the protection. If the lightening tries to come down, it wants to get to ground as quickly and easily as it can.

BLAIR: …as lightning wants to do.

JON: Go figure. The wires give it that path to get to ground quicker and easier.

BLAIR: Those wires go from the towers down to flux capacitor?

JON: Right, Marty. 1.21 gigawatts.

BLAIR: Right. And then you could save power.

CHRIS: The Ares I rocket is going to be much taller than the shuttle.

JON: Oh yeah. If you look at the pad and you see where the GOX Vent Arm is out there. The Ares I rocket goes up another 100 feet above that.

CHRIS: What about Ares V, which is going to be our heavy lift vehicle down the road. That lightning protection design is going to be the same design but much taller.

JON: The same one you’re seeing right here, still 600 feet high with a pentagonal opening for it to fly through. It’s going to look similar to what you see here when they get it up for Ares I.

CHRIS: How are you going to build a structure that tall? What kind of crane are you going to be using?

JON: There’s a handful of cranes in the world big enough to do…

BLAIR: It’s a transformer crane.

CHRIS: It could be.

JON: From transformer planet. It actually takes about 18 to 20 truck loads to bring that crane in here. It takes two weeks to set it up and break it down. It’s got at least, what the crane operators call stick, a six hundred foot stick because we’ve got to get stuff up 600 feet in the air. They’re huge, monstrous things.

CHRIS: I tell you what, Jon, we’re looking forward to the Ares I-X launch.

JON: And so am I.

CHRIS: We can’t wait. Blair and I have been talking about this for about 6 month or so. We’re going to be down here for the launch.

JON: So will I.

CHRIS: We can catch up with you. You can tell us more about I-X.

JON: Absolutely. Anytime guys.

BLAIR: If you could make it, that’d be great.

JON: He’s sweet.

CHRIS: Maybe we could hook you up with a first class seat.

JON: I’d be very appreciative because I don’t really know many people down here.

BLAIR: As long as we stay out of the WOB.

JON: Yes. We’re going to try to stay out of the WOB but the launch will take us where it takes us.

BLAIR: And you’re prepared for the WOB.

JON: That’s exactly why we’re putting up the lightning mast extensions so we can deal with it.

BLAIR: Window of Badness.

CHRIS: I’m wondering what our WOB factor is here at the building.

FRANKLIN: Blair is our WOB factor. He’s our lightning rod of controversy.

CHRIS: Is that why our lightning protection rod is about 200 feet in the air. I wondered what that long pole was outside.

BLAIR: That’s right, very high WOB here at our building at NASA.

CHRIS: New terminology, the WOB factor.

BLAIR: The WOB factor, yeah.

CHRIS: Kind of like magnetospherence.

BLAIR: Yeah, and it applies to a broad range of topics.

CHRIS: We’ve got to write that one down.

BLAIR: You know what else Jon didn’t mention? I need to chastise him. The catenary wires. I did some pre-research on the whole lightning protection system. He didn’t use the proper term. That’s from the Latin catinarious which I thought it would be important… Oh, hey Sten.

[Sten pours coffee]

CHRIS: This is the second time that we’ve been doing the vod-cast that he’s actually used his degree on the show. Talking about the Latin…

BLAIR: Yeah, exactly. Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.

CHRIS: What’s going on?

BLAIR: Ah, oh, nice job, Sten.

CHRIS: I’m not going to talk about it. I’m not going to discuss it. Hey, I understand you got a chance to talk with Terri McGulgen.

BLAIR: McGugin.

FRANKLIN: He is the parachute guru.

BLAIR: Yeah, absolutely.

FRANKLIN: He was very knowledgeable about everything. He’s been working with USA for quite a few years.

BLAIR: The cool part is the whole team that he has there. They do the whole operation right there from the sewing to everything else. It’s quite a cool operation.

CHRIS: Did you get an opportunity to get your hands dirty and start stitching or start making parts of the parachute?

FRANKLIN: We touched the parachute.

BLAIR: I wasn’t allowed near any machinery.

CHRIS: Was the WOB factor greater?

BLAIR: WOB factor, yeah but they had a different protection system when I walked into the building. Let me tell you.

TERRY: This is the parachute refurbishing facility. Its purpose is to refurbish, repair, pack and ship out the parachutes. We’re also working on the Ares parachutes as well. Along side of that stuff, we also with the Orbiter drag chute, which is the parachute that comes out of the end of the orbiter when it lands.

BLAIR: It’s like a one stop shop for everything.

TERRY: It sure is.

FRANKLIN: What’s the difference between the SRB parachute and the parachute for the Ares I-X?

TERRY: The SRB shuttle system parachute is 136 foot across when it’s fully opened across the bottom. The Ares parachute is 150 feet across the bottom when it’s fully opened. That sounds somewhat larger but if you think about it as a 3-D system, it’s a much larger parachute. The SRB canopy, if it was laid along side this Ares canopy, the skirt of it would be somewhere up here near the top of the blue section. It’s quite a bit larger parachute than the SRB parachutes. We also use new and improved materials. You see the gold material? That’s Kevlar webbing. It’s much stronger, about 3 times as strong than the nylon webbing we use in the SRB. You get more strength capacity and less volume and less weight.

BLAIR: Is the larger size due to the fact the SRB for I-X is larger?

TERRY: Yes. The booster for Ares is a five-segment booster. Burnout weight for a current SRB is about 180,000 lbs., when it’s coming back in. The Ares vehicle is going to be about 210,000. We’re bringing back a lot more load. The SRB main parachutes fly 15 times. That’s their certification limit. The Ares parachute, the original design, is 10 times. That’s what the SRB parachute was originally designed for, 10 flights. We tested it later on and found out it was better than we thought and we certified it for more flights.

BLAIR: It’s always nice to see you’re better at it. That’s good.

FRANKLIN: I understand that the parachutes, when they deploy, come out in stages.

TERRY: Right. We bring the parachute through a stage of reefing. We constrict the opening of the parachute; don’t let it go full open all at once. That way we take all the load that it’s carrying there; we open the parachute part way. It comes open a little bit further; a little bit further; then goes full open. You decelerate a little more gradually.

FRANKLIN: You said there’s damage that could be done to the parachutes. What kind of damage is sustained?

TERRY: Damage could be done from deployment damage or it catches on something when it hits the water. If they come down across the booster, they can catch and tear. The damage is not severe because the loads on the parachute are fairly low at that point.

BLAIR: So you have to go through and test each stitch?

TERRY: They don’t test each stitch but they inspect every stitch on the parachute. No kidding.

BLAIR: We want the parachutes to be effective in all stages. That’s good.

FRANKLIN: Absolutely.

TERRY: Yeah, you want them to work every time.

BLAIR: I hear you have some laundry facilities. I was wondering if I could throw in a few shirts, if you’re cleaning a parachute?

TERRY: It would get wet, come out and we would dry it but it wouldn’t necessarily get a lot cleaner. We do have what we call a washer out here but it’s just a rinse. We don’t wash or put detergent in. Sorry about that.

BLAIR: I guess dry cleaning is out of the question.

TERRY: Yes, it is.


BLAIR: Welcome back to NASA EDGE.

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

CHRIS: That was a pretty cool segment. Do you know what we need to do? There’s only so many shuttle launches left before the shuttle retires.

BLAIR: Right. That’s sad. Why would you… Now I’m depressed.

CHRIS: We need to get down there on the boat that retrieves the solid rocket boosters…

BLAIR: That is a great point.

CHRIS: … to see the parachutes.

FRANKLIN: That is a good idea.

BLAIR: Terry was showing Franklin and I some footage of when those things land. They actually send in divers to sort the parachute out, inspect the damage on the SRB and everything else. That would be great.

FRANKLIN: Yeah, it would.

CHRIS: Wouldn’t it be cool to go under and help them out?

BLAIR: Yeah, bring the WOB underwater next time. We’ll take the whole thing and just sink it.

CHRIS: We’ll exponentially increase the factor by about 100.

FRANKLIN: Let’s just go for snorkels and call it quits.

BLAIR: They’ll have me in a wading pool on the deck of the boat that retrieves them.

CHRIS: As you know the Orion crew module, which I have a model here, is about 2 ½ times the volume of the Apollo. You had a chance to go in the mock up in a nice black suit. You looked like Spiderman.

BLAIR: Yes, I did. Venom.


CHRIS: Yeah.

CHRIS: You went into the suit and got a chance to lift some things.

BLAIR: Franklin, you’ll be interested to know that I even made some headway in getting the medianaut presence made on the Orion.

FRANKLIN: Get out.

CHRIS: And the cool thing about it is he did some exercises inside…

BLAIR: Yeah.

CHRIS: the mock up that will just blow you away.

BLAIR: My limberness surprised even me.

CHRIS: We’re here with Brad from United Space Lines. Brad, what do you have here behind us?

BRAD: Basically, we have a version of the Orion crew module made from Ocean Capture.

CHRIS: What are these three people doing here?

BRAD: They are simulating the installation of the environmental control life support system. We’re learning new ways to more efficiently and safely do the processing for the next generation rocket. It lets us test different ideas before we actually get down to the manufacturing side.

CHRIS: They’re wearing these special outfits. They have these dots all over them. What’s that all about?

BRAD: They’re reflective markers. The red cameras you see around us are causing those markers or dots to reflect in order for the computer system to track, triangulate their positions.

BLAIR: It’s like what they use in video games.

BRAD: Yes, correct. Actually this is exactly what the movie industry used to do a lot of their special effects with. We just repurposed it for our engineering studies.

BLAIR: What do you think? I’ve got the physique. I’ve got the intellect.

BRAD: You rock!

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: Do you want to try putting on the suit?

BLAIR: Absolutely.

CHRIS: The shell is going through a range of movements. You’re able to determine what?

BOB: We start off in a common position called the T pose. From the T pose we do a range of motions that way the system can know the distance between the balls as it travels between each of the motions.

BLAIR: Are you seriously, you want me to do jumping jacks.

BOB: After we do a capture, we can process that and identify the people to take it on for our next system.

CHRIS: What types of tasks do you perform here?

BOB: In this particular case, the Orion module, they’re going to be installing the environmentally controlled life support systems. There are several components of that system to be installed on the wall. Each component has a certain weight and size. We mock up the sizes. We tell the actors the weight they have to give with and they go through the motions of performing an instillation. We can show size and fit, probably the best process possible. When the capture is finished, we’ll take the capture into something called post processing. We’ll actually go in and name the dots and identify the dots…

CHRIS: So each specific dot on their body has a name to it.

BOB: Exactly. Each dot has a name and location. As it forms, the software knows the ergonomics of the human body and begins to make the contacts. The names are very particular. LWT would be left waist. RWT would be right waist. You move down you have the toe and so forth. We can essentially stick-frame a body and push it through the motions here.

CHRIS: You can actually simulate any type of conditions you like inside the Orion crew module in terms of moving components around and where they’re going to be placed.

BOB: Correct. Not only that but if we go in and do a simulation and if a particular stance wasn’t correct or if we knew this position was not going to be good, we have them change it right here on the fly, until we get one that looks good and make a recommendation to the processing staff. We can quickly change the size and shape of the weights we’re working with. It’s putting the ergonomics or the human factor upfront in the design of any new processes we can do here at Kennedy, in particular the Orion or the buildup of the Ares.

CHRIS: We looked at the data. We’ve processed the data and now we’re looking at the JACK software. Tell me a little bit about what this can do.

LORA: We’re able to go in and look at the different stresses that are occurring on different parts of the body during the task. Right now, we’re looking at the posture. As this individual executes this task, it shows when it’s going red, yellow, when the risk is at its highest.

CHRIS: You can actually rotate this 3-dimensional…

LORA: Yes, you can rotate it to get different views.

CHRIS: Wow, look at that.

LORA: There’s the front view.

CHRIS: I noticed on the analysis that it went from green to yellow and it was actually a little bit orange there. Does that mean they’re overall posture was at a risk?

LORA: At that given time, yes. It changes as he goes through the task.

CHRIS: I see as you’re moving around it turns red. Is the idea then that you’re trying to move that piece of hardware around the crew module, you want to minimize that risk as much as possible.

LORA: Exactly.

CHRIS: You’re going to get it down to the green as much as possible.

LORA: That’s our main goal.

CHRIS: How long does this process take from where it goes into the mockup processing to when it comes to you and to the final product?

LORA: We can do it in as little as a week. It depends on how in depth the task is at the time.

BLAIR: Franklin, this is really cool what we looked at.

CHRIS: How’s your back?

BLAIR: My back is much better. Actually, it was more strenuous than you realize because you have to act like… It’s hard to imagine a lot of weight. And then, I wonder if the factored this in? The whole suit is like a blood pressure cuff. I could feel my heart beat in my fingernails. I’m holding that and I don’t know if that’s giving you accurate readings.

CHRIS: Now you know how Batman feels.

BLAIR: That’s… I am Batman. That’s true.

FRANKLIN: Question Blair, how heavy is a 100 lb. object in space?

BLAIR: Well, okay. Nice. Fair Enough. It might have mass but it doesn’t matter when you’re out there but this isn’t just for in space.

CHRIS: This is for loading in on Earth, when they start loading the equipment into the Orion spacecraft. The idea of looking at this posture analysis is if he’s a member of the technical team, he’s bringing in equipment and that he’s using his back properly.


CHRIS: I just want to clarify that this particular project is not part of the Constellation program. This is a concept, an idea that USA is proposing.

BLAIR: What they want to do is say isn’t this a better way than building up a mock up and trying a hundred different configurations.

CHRIS: Which is pretty cool because you have that whole 3-D gaming thing involved.

BLAIR: Yeah. I was like a movie star. It was really cool.

CHRIS: Maybe one day you could play it on your game console.

BLAIR: Yeah. But we do need to get to viewer questions today.

CHRIS: We do have quite a bit. In fact, Franklin is educating out intern on the nuances of the show. Sten is going…

BLAIR: Perfect.

CHRIS: …to give us some of your email when we get back.

BLAIR: Excellent. Sten will do a great job.

CHRIS: And we’ll see what we can do about answering the questions from our viewers.

BLAIR: Perfect. 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.

FRANKLIN: Guys, I want to officially introduce you to our trustworthy intern, Sten. That’s an official introduction because earlier in the show Sten was…

BLAIR: Doing very important work by helping out the co-host…

CHRIS: Which was uncalled for, very unprofessional…

FRANKLIN: Totally uncalled for but that right there, coffee, that’s not good.

BLAIR: Paying the dues.

FRANKLIN: Brand-new segment that we’re introducing to the show here today. And Sten has been managing that program.

BLAIR: I just want to say no notes. I’m going to answer these questions on the spot, impromptu, if you will.

CHRIS: Okay.

BLAIR: Impressive… should be. Go ahead, Sten.

CHRIS: Not if you can’t answer the question.

[Chris & Franklin laughing]

CHRIS: What do we do?

BLAIR: What’s that?

CHRIS: If we can’t answer the question, we’re just going to tell them we’re looking for the information and get back with them.

BLAIR: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve already got it written down. I do not know the answer to that question. Please call back tomorrow. Go ahead.


VIEWER VOICE MAIL: This is Annesly from Orlando, FL. What adaptations will the body have to make in order for humans to travel to Mars and beyond? Thank you. Bye.

CHRIS: That’s a great question.

BLAIR: One of the things that you have to consider when you travel through space that long is loss of bone density. If you don’t deal with it then when you get to Mars, you’ll end up looking like Jabba the Hutt or something like that; a big blob. You have to do some kind of gravity simulation exercise to maintain muscle and bone structure.

FRANKLIN: Milk does the body good.

BLAIR: That’s right.

FRANKLIN: Can they take their own cow?

BLAIR: We got milk.

CHRIS: There are a couple of issues. Remember we’re looking at about a 1,000 day mission going to Mars and we’re going to have 6 astronauts cooped up in a small environment. So, not only do we have to look at muscle atrophy and bone mineral density loss but also…

BLAIR: Personal hygiene.

CHRIS: Yes, personal hygiene but they have to be fit. What happens if they have disease or are disabled in some way? How are they going to be able to cope with that? But also the radiation effects, that spacecraft is going to be bombarded with not only solar radiation but with galactic, cosmic radiation. How is that going to affect the human body as we go to Mars?

BLAIR: Check out the brains on Chris.

FRANKLIN: He’s like a professor.

BLAIR: Good job. Good answer. Way to beguile the viewer with confusing comments. Next question Sten, if you don’t mind.

CHRIS: By the way, if you feel unsatisfied with any answer, write us. We’ll be glad to…

BLAIR: … to elaborate further.

VIEWER VOICE MAIL: Several months ago, I was looking at some pictures of the shuttle payload canisters with some students and we noticed something interesting. It appears that the canisters are loaded with the payload in the horizontal position but when placed in the KMAG transport they always seem to be in the vertical position. Is there some reason for transporting them to the pad in the vertical position? And how do the canisters get rotated from the horizontal to the vertical position? Thanks.

BLAIR: This is kind of a no brainer. Vehicle assembly building… you just put everything in there. Push a button, everything gets corrected and it comes out the right way.

CHRIS: What do you think? Is that just a…?

BLAIR: First all, how does this guy see this and notice all this detail? He must have some incredible access. I saw the payload trucking across the highway.

CHRIS: There’s horizontal payload and vertical payload. Whatever facility you’re in, payload is laid into the payload canister horizontally. They then have a crane that will lift that from a horizontal to the vertical position.

BLAIR: In the VAB?

CHRIS: Not in the VAB, depending in what processing facility that you’re located. Then that vehicle will take it to the pad. The reason why it’s vertical is when it arrives at the pad, there’s only one mechanism, which is the vertical mechanism that will lift the payload from the vehicle straight up into the canopy where the rotating service structure is located.

BLAIR: The payload itself is only put in out at the pad? It’s not put in at the VAB?

CHRIS: If it’s a vertical payload, it’s put in at the pad. If it’s a horizontal payload, it can be put into the Orbiter…

BLAIR: … at the Orbiting processing center.

CHRIS: Yes! Not shuttle but Orbiter. Right Franklin?


CHRIS: Okay, next Sten.


VIEWER VOICE MAIL: Since Expedition I in 2000, how many total meals have the crews eaten? Thanks.

BLAIR: Wow. How many meals…

CHRIS: First of all, let’s answer the first part of that question. What’s Expedition I?

BLAIR: Do you know, Franklin?

[Franklin shaking his head “no.”]

BLAIR: Expedition I is the ISS.

CHRIS: That was the very first mission to ISS, Expedition I.

BLAIR: Well, let’s see. Three meals a day, 365 days a year…

FRANKLIN: It almost becomes an equation.

BLAIR: But you know some of those astronauts up there double dipped. I know you get a little hankering, a midnight snack action when you’re on the ISS. You’ve got to sneak and grab an extra meal.

CHRIS: Is that meal even counted in that? I don’t know.

BLAIR: It is a meal.

FRANKLIN: It is simple math that we’re talking about but it’s a round about number when you get to your final answer.

BLAIR: All right. Sten, next question.

VIEWER VOICE MAIL: Last night my friends and I were talking on our cell phones. Everybody with AT&T and T Mobile cell phone signals died around midnight last night. I was wondering if any of that magnetospherence or solar storms happened that might have affected us in Texas?

BLAIR: I’m certain that was magnetospherence. I’m pretty confident that was magnetospherence. There was definitely an event because I saw it on the Space Weather Action Center.

CHRIS: I usually check which is a great site for solar activity. This past week they did have a minor flare but it was mainly over Europe. It wasn’t around here.

BLAIR: Interesting.

CHRIS: We don’t know for sure if it was due to a magnetic disturbance or solar storm.

BLAIR: Interestingly, two different cell phone networks had a problem. If it were just one, I wouldn’t even be talking about magnetospherence.

CHRIS: Franklin, Sten those are great questions. In fact, I like that segment, the VVM. We’ve got to do more of them on the show.

BLAIR: There should be more questions.

CHRIS: That’s all we had, right?

FRANKLIN: That’s all I thought. Sten?

CHRIS: Let’s wrap the show…

BLAIR: No, we’ve got one more. We have to have one more. Trust me.

CHRIS: Sten, do we have one more?

BLAIR: Do we have one more?

STEN: Um, oh yes, one more.

BLAIR: Yes! One more.

VIEWER VOICE MAIL: Hello. My name is Gene Yus from Mensa and I was wondering why isn’t the co-host the host of the show? He’s very intelligent, obviously very talented and I think he should be promoted. Thank you.

BLAIR: Brilliant. Brilliant! Profound question. Why shouldn’t I be the host of the show?

FRANKLIN: Did you catch the name of that viewer?

BLAIR: Oh yeah, Gene Yus.

CHRIS: You know what? He got busted because when he was talking into the phone he got video taped doing that. Let’s roll the tape.

BLAIR: What?!

CHRIS: You got busted.

BLAIR: I did not. No, I couldn’t have.

CHRIS: You’re watching NASA EDGE.

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

BLAIR: There’s no video. That’s crazy. That’s just a good viewer.

CHRIS: You just admitted…

BLAIR: I didn’t admit anything.

CHRIS: Why were you all red?

BLAIR: It’s because I’m hot in here.

CHRIS: Oh, okay.


BLAIR: It’s this coffee that Sten…

FRANKLIN: Gene Yus, you couldn’t come up with anything better than that?

BLAIR: It’s Gene.


BLAIR: Gene Yus, yea.

CHRIS: Oh, I love this show.

BLAIR: We’re very fortunate because they’re going to help me configure a stowaway spot here in the Orion. If I just make my way over here, careful not to damage anything because I have to live here for a while. If I get in here and I nestle down here right between what might be the urinal and what I’m hoping will be a charcoal grill, I should have all the comforts of home and provisions to last me for six months, which is what I need to officially stow away as a medianaut on the Orion. If all holds, I’ll be the first medianaut in space. This is perfect, diaper check. Yeah, good. All right.

RON: Cut.

BLAIR: Good. Oh man, it is hot in here.

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