NE@The Gantry

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NE@The Gantry
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BLAIR: Ya know Chris, I really want to thank you for getting me the special clearance to come to the big NASA shiny metal thing.

CHRIS: Oh, no problem. Well, actually it's just called the Gantry at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

BLAIR: Yes, I'm aware of that.

CHRIS: I wanted to give you an insider's look at what actually goes on behind the scenes. How we test hardware, how we develop technologies. And what we're going to see here today is an airbag test. If you may recall back during the Apollo days, when the capsule landed, came into reentry, it actually landed in the ocean.

BLAIR: Yes, I do remember that.

CHRIS: Well, the Orion spacecraft, we're look at the possibility of the capsule actually having to land on land. So, we're doing an airbag test to see if we can slow this capsule down.

BLAIR: As a thank you I decided to put together a little demonstration, model or demonstration of what we’re going to see for you and the audience. Okay, what we have here is a crude model of what we're going to see today. If you can't tell, I have the Orion crew module strapped to this makeshift airbag. And we’re going to simulate a ten foot, ten degree, toe end drop. So what I have here is something like this and you drop and see safe landing. It's perfect. And if you look at that, that’s tow-in. That’s about ten feet, perfect. Although, the way it's going to work is probably a better way. It's with a little bit of a valve. It's going to give out. Oh, perfect, safe landing. You've got the astronauts coming out like that. Perfect. Here ya go.

CHRIS: That's one concept.

BLAIR: That’s a concept.

CHRIS: My concept is to have this boiler plate.

BLAIR: Oh, that would explain…

CHRIS: And then you have the airbags underneath it.

BLAIR: Gotcha.

CHRIS: And it's the right diameter of the Orion crew module.

BLAIR: Got it!

CHRIS: Well, the actual piece they’re going to be using.

BLAIR: Right.

CHRIS: And this is just simulated. Of course, you would just drop it and the airbags would hit the ground and there would be an explosive charge in each of the bags. And all the air would come out at a certain point.

BLAIR: And it would slowly rest to safety.

CHRIS: It would just rest on the ground. But in your concept, you actually had to open up the airbag a second time but as soon as you do that all the air comes out.

BLAIR: Yeah, there's some limitations. It's the flavor seal that causes the problem on my model.

CHRIS: What's the black tape for?

BLAIR: Um, safety. Tape is always used for safety.

CHRIS: [laughing]

BLAIR: That’s the safety tape. One idea I had Chris was to take the… see this foam, squishy Orion, make a real Orion out of this. It’s actually pretty safe. If you watch here if you do a test drop… [drops Orion model]. Oh, look at that, no damage. Ah, ah, no damage.

CHRIS: Are you serious?

BLAIR: Absolutely, no damage!

CHRIS: No comment.

BLAIR: The capsule is intact.

CHRIS: Let's go watch the drop test.

BLAIR: Totally damage free. Look at that.

BLAIR: And they're ah… Looks like they're, ah…

CHRIS: They're just watering the surface because they don't want all the dust to come flying up.

BLAIR: Oh. Okay, 'cause…

CHRIS: They're not putting grass seed down or anything like that.

BLAIR: No time for gardening.

CHRIS: Absolutely.

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: That's not part of the job.

BLAIR: Uh, oh, we have lift off.

CHRIS: Okay, they going to lift this up about… ten

BLAIR: 'bout ten…

CHRIS: …about ten feet from the bottom of the airbag. Looks like they're at about a ten-degree down angle. It's not going to be horizontal.

BLAIR: Yeah.

CHRIS: Well, what happens sometimes, ya know, when that capsule comes in it's not going to come in straight down. It might come at an angle. So, they have to test at all different angles, different speeds.

BLAIR: Of course, how do we know the Orion is not there, it's just not in stealth mode?

CHRIS: [laughing]

BLAIR: With NASA technology, you never know, right?

CHRIS: It could be in stealth mode.

BLAIR: That would be cool. Now we are in a safe zone?

CHRIS: Yes, we are. We're behind the safety area here. We're wearing hard hats just to be sure.

BLAIR: Right.

CHRIS: You never know what could happen.

BLAIR: I'm kinda likin' the hard hat.

CHRIS: Now, this might be a little loud. Just to let you know because…

BLAIR: Oh, that's right.

CHRIS: So just be careful.

BLAIR: We have great weather conditions, zero magnetospherence.

COUNTDOWN: Five, four,

CHRIS: Here we go.


BLAIR: Awesome.

COUNTDOWN: Two, one. Release.

CHRIS: And, drop.

BLAIR: Ah, the Eagle as landed. Safety first.

CHRIS: That was pretty cool, wasn't it?

BLAIR: Everybody looks okay.

BLAIR: That was awesome! Research in action. We could almost touch it. Only a hundred and fifty feet away, an airbag test.

CHRIS: Wasn't that pretty cool?

BLAIR: You don’t get that everyday.

CHRIS: I'm glad you enjoyed that. And I'm glad that NASA and its viewers had a chance to see some of the things we do on the inside of NASA. Hey, send us some comments and feedback at

BLAIR: We're Chris and Blair with NASA Edge.

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

BLAIR: That's just incredible.

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