NASA EDGE Show 8: Space Shuttle Launch - STS 118

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NASA EDGE Show 8: Space Shuttle Launch - STS 118
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Show 8: Shuttle Launch STS 118

Featuring: NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch STS 118


CHRIS: Hey, welcome to NASA Edge.

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

CHRIS: We’re right here at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

CHRIS: And behind us is the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

BLAIR: And we found out everything we needed to know about the launch right on the NASA website at

CHRIS: I want to congratulate you on a job well done in organizing this mission as opposed to your debacle the last time we were here.

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: In fact, on today’s show, we’re going to be talking all about STS-118, its primary objectives to the International Space Station. And also, this is going to be the first educator in space, Barbara Morgan.

BLAIR: Which is great. And we’re also going to interview some NASA Edge fans and get an exclusive look at the NASA Edge shuttle dog at the very first NASA Edge tailgating party.

MAN: That’s an external tank.

MALE VOICE: That’s the whole shuttle being cooked.

WOMAN: Out of this world.

CHRIS: Oh, I can’t wait to taste those.

BLAIR: Very tasty.

CHRIS: In fact, let’s go check out the Shuttle.

BLAIR: Okay, let’s do that.

CHRIS: You’re watching NASA Edge.

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

CHRIS: Come on, let’s go.

BLAIR: You think they’ll let us go inside the gate there.

CHRIS: I’m hoping so.

BLAIR: Good.

BLAIR: We’re looking at T minus 1:53 and 38 seconds. We’re preparing the shuttle dogs.

MAN: Look at this. That’s an external tank.

BLAIR: We have go for fuel up.

MAN: What I want to do is take a skewer. This is your job. I want those weenie dogs. He doesn’t like weenie dogs. So, we’re going to use weenie dogs, Blair. What I want to do is build a spacecraft, around this, that flies. And it flies onto the grill.

WOMAN: Where’s the dog part?

MAN: The dog is next. We’ve designed him next. This one’s all veggie.

MALE VOICE: That’s the whole shuttle being cooked. Don’t assemble it. It’s already assembled.

MAN: This is a combination vegetable and meat. The antennas are up here on the cabin retract and then the crew aren’t talking to you anymore. These three engines gimbal, rock forward and back. The SRB’s light, 1.73 minutes later. I want you to deploy from this side of the grill to that side as they fall away.

BLAIR: What we’re looking at. Now, I know that the initial viewing would probably make most people a little concerned about heart and health but these are the fat free SRBs. This is a fat free external tank. We’re using the fat free or light American cheese and the wheat buns. These chips, I can’t say the brand name, that would be inappropriate but I will tell you they are on the lower side of trouble.

BLAIR: There it is. The number one, official NASA Edge Shuttle dog.


BLAIR: You can choose to eat the blast trail or not. Mmm. This is our first shuttle dog although this is not in the best aesthetic state right now.

WOMAN: Out of this world.




BLAIR: Huh, that’s funny. [knocking] Hey Chris, it’s not working. [knocking] It’s not working. We’ve got a delay. Something’s not right.

CHRIS: Outsider. Let me explain to him why we have a hold on the countdown.

BLAIR: There’s some kind of electronical problem because I’m looking at my watch and this is frozen. So there must be some kind of delay or…

CHRIS: No. There’s no delay. For every launch, there are scheduled holdbacks; one at T minus 27 hours, one at T minus 19 hours and the last one is at T minus 11 hours.


CHRIS: What they do during this holdback, which is scheduled, is it allows the launch team to complete any unfinished business.

BLAIR: Oh. Essentially, what you are saying is at actual eleven hours before the actual launch that clock will resume and we’ll be back on schedule?

CHRIS: Absolutely.

BLAIR: And then I can synchronize the watch and we’re good to go.

CHRIS: Yes, provided that your batteries are working.

BLAIR: Yeah, okay.

CHRIS: But we need to take off because we’re actually going to see the rollout of the RSS or the Rotating Service Structure.

BLAIR: Are there any scheduled holds there?

CHRIS: No. We’re just going to check it out. Let’s go.

BLAIR: All right, cool. Holdbacks?

BLAIR: We’re here at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex with a NASA Edge fan from MySpace. Let’s ask her a few questions. SARAH, how did you become a NASA Edge fan?

SARAH: I saw a posting in one of my groups, the Space Shuttle group.

BLAIR: You just thought it was so intriguing?

SARAH: Yeah. I visited your page and went to the link and iTunes and watched your episodes.

BLAIR: Oh, neat. Excellent. Thanks for being a fan. We need a couple favors. I have a few questions about Space Shuttle launches, if you don’t mind?

SARAH: Not at all.

BLAIR: You, obviously, are a veteran of space shuttle launches. Could you give me any insight into what to expect or how to prepare for such a momentous occasion.

SARAH: One of the big clues is you’re going to see it before you hear it.

BLAIR: Okay.

SARAH: They’re going to start the engines and you’ll see the puff of steam and then you will hear it moments later. Another thing is you can see the ripples along the water.

BLAIR: From the sound waves?


BLAIR: You know that cloud of… I don’t know what it is. It looks like smoke but it’s not.

SARAH: It’s steam.

BLAIR: It’s steam. Why do they have that?

SARAH: They rush water through when they fire the engines for sound suppression.

BLAIR: Sound suppression? So, that’s not from the rockets. That’s something totally different. Why would they need to suppress the sound? We’re far enough away so that we can hear it without ear damage.

SARAH: It’s so they don’t break up the launch complex.

BLAIR: So, the sound would actually damage the FSS.


BLAIR: Or the RSS.


BLAIR: All right. Do you know what those stand for?


BLAIR: Well, do you want to take a guess about what the RSS or FSS would be?

SARAH: Hmm, I don’t know. Space Camp Barbie, do you want to take that one?

BLAIR: Wow, who’s Space Camp Barbie?

SARAH: She is my buddy. She went with me to space academy last weekend.

BLAIR: I like her. She’s my height. Anyways, I can answer this one. I can tell you what the FSS is.

SARAH: Please do.

BLAIR: The FSS is the Fixed Service Structure and the RSS is the

BLAIR & SARAH [together]: Rotating.

BLAIR: Oh, very good.

SARAH: Ah, I did know.

BLAIR: No further questions.



BLAIR: We’re here at T minus 29 minutes, 24 seconds. And the excitement here you can just feel it. I can tell you I know now why you guys were upset with me. No one was here before. Everyone’s here now.

CHRIS: Less than thirty minutes, the energy level is coming up and increasing. Everyone is getting excited. We’re all ready to go.

BLAIR: There are lots of questions that I have. We’ve talked about how we prepare. How the shuttle gets ready for launch but what we don’t know or what I don’t know and lots of people would like to know is what are this shuttle’s mission objectives, STS-118.

CHRIS: Well, the primary objective, of course, is the Endeavor will rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station.

BLAIR: Excellent.

CHRIS: And in fact, as it docks, it’s going to have supplies on board the shuttle that’s going to transfer over to the station. And they’re also going to take some of the trash back that’s on the station.

BLAIR: Very important. Nice.

CHRIS: And also, they’re going to add another truss segment to the International Space Station. As you know, we’re building that Space Station and we want to have it completed by 2010. So we’re adding another truss segment and also adding another external stowage platform to the station.

BLAIR: Stowage?

CHRIS: Stowage. A place to store items, supplies, tools.

BLAIR: Oh, storage space.

CHRIS: Absolutely. And for the first time we’re going to have the new power transfer system from station to shuttle. And in fact, if this works then the shuttle can actually use the power from the station, thereby we can extend the mission of the shuttle.

BLAIR: So what you’re saying is we’ve got a new system. Just like when I work on a plane with my laptop, I have to watch my battery use and plan. Sometimes I can’t do everything I want to do. But now, if I get that cord that plugs into the plane, I can just work away.

CHRIS: Yes, essentially. Right.

BLAIR: It will allow them to do that kind of work.

CHRIS: What they’re going to do, if that is the case, if that transfer system works, we’re going to extend it another three days or so.

BLAIR: Oh, great.

CHRIS: Therefore besides the primary objectives, we’re going to have secondary objectives that the astronauts are going to accomplish.

BLAIR: If it works, they’ll actually do that this mission.

CHRIS: Absolutely.

BLAIR: So, they already have those. They don’t have to guess. They already up there. If it works, they’re about their business.

CHRIS: And don’t forget, Barbara Morgan, the first teacher in space, is going to be up there. She’s going to be doing a number of educational activities, especially with the students in Idaho where she taught for a number of years.

BLAIR: Is she going to talk to them over the phone? How is that going to work?

CHRIS: She’s going to talk straight from space right into the students’ classrooms.

BLAIR: A videoconference. Live.

CHRIS: Absolutely. It’s going to be cool for those students.

BLAIR: Hopefully she won’t give them too much homework because it’s still summer time.

CHRIS: Exactly.

BLAIR: I tell you what. We need to get ready for the launch. I’ve got to digest the shuttle dogs and we’ve only got T minus 27 minutes and 5 seconds. You’re here with NASA Edge.

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

BLAIR: Okay, I’ve got to get going.

CHRIS: Okay, let’s go.

BLAIR: I see it. You can see it.


CHRIS: Oh man, look at that.

BLAIR: Good grief!

BLAIR: Look at how bright that is.

CHRIS: Oh, that is awesome.

CHRIS: Feel that. That is awesome! Oh my gosh. It’s shaking the RV!

BLAIR: Eight miles.

CHRIS: Another minute and the SRB’s will separate. That’s incredible.

MISSION CONTROL: Endeavor flying straight as an arrow, 1 minute 55 seconds into the flight. Standing by for solid rocket booster separation.


BLAIR: We’re here with NASA Edge at T plus 20:18 into an amazing mission with the Endeavor. I tell you I am speechless.

CHRIS: I’m speechless too. Our RV was rocking so much when the shuttle was taking off. It was incredible.

BLAIR: And it was so bright. It blew me away.

CHRIS: If you ever get a chance to see a shuttle launch, there’s about thirteen…

BLAIR: Plan a trip.

CHRIS: Yeah, plan a trip. Come on down to Kennedy. Check it out. Be on the side of the road. It’s unbelievable.

BLAIR: I’ve got to go recover but after that maybe we can answer some more questions about the Space Shuttle and this mission.

CHRIS: We’ve got Viewer Mail.

BLAIR: Yeah, Viewer Mail, we’ll do that. This is NASA Edge.

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



CHRIS: Hey, welcome back to NASA Edge.

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

CHRIS: We’re back here in the NASA studio. We haven’t been here in awhile.


CHRIS: Feels good, doesn’t it?

BLAIR: It’s great to be back.

CHRIS: What a great mission for STS-118. We’re going to talk about that later with our subject matter expert, Robbie Kerns.

BLAIR: And we’re also going to provide some viewer questions from our Face Book friends during that time.

CHRIS: Absolutely, and Robbie will be here to answer those questions as well. But first we have a special guest on the line.

BLAIR: Oh yes, we do. That’s Kayla LaFrance. She’s the actual official #1 NASA fan.

CHRIS: Does Ron have her on the line?

BLAIR: Kayla, are you there?

KAYLA: Yes, I am.

BLAIR: Hi, this is Blair Allen from NASA Edge.

KAYLA: Nice to meet you.

CHRIS: How are things going Kayla?

KAYLA: Going great. How are things going for you?

CHRIS: Not too bad. It’s tough working back in the studio with the co-host but we’re managing. We’re doing pretty well. Thank you.

BLAIR: We do have some questions for you. I do in particular. How did this whole thing work? How did you become the official #1 fan of NASA?

KAYLA: I made a thirty-second video that highlighted things that I’ve done throughout. Like going to space camps and showed how I really loved NASA, space and astronomy. I submitted it. There was an online vote on the NASA website and I guess I got the most votes, because I won.

BLAIR: That’s awesome. And so when you became the #1 fan, they told you to go to the next shuttle launch or how did you work that out?

KAYLA: As the winner, I got to go to a Space Shuttle launch. The first launch was right during finals. They said I could pick a launch that would work with my school schedule. STS-118 ended up being the one I picked.

BLAIR: What was the coolest part of, obviously the shuttle launch is cool, but you probably did a lot of different things. What was the coolest part of your experience down at NASA Kennedy?

KAYLA: As for the space shuttle launch, I would have to say going into the OPF or the Orbiting Processing Facility and getting to go into the Discovery bay and being underneath the Space Shuttle Discovery.

CHRIS: What do you want to do after you get out of college?

BLAIR: [whispering] Please not an astronaut. Please not an astronaut.

KAYLA: Of course, I would love to be an astronaut…

BLAIR: More competition.

KAYLA: …but my ultimate goal would be to work with Mars technology from Mars exploration.

CHRIS: Hey Kayla, if it’s okay we would like to keep in touch with you throughout the school year to see how well you’re doing.

KAYLA: That would be great.

CHRIS: I tell you what we’ll do. We’ll take a break. We’ll stay on the line and continue to talk to Kayla.

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: And when we come back, I think Robbie is waiting for us. We’re going to answer some questions from the viewers and talk about the shuttle mission.

BLAIR: That’s right. He’s actually here IS.

CHRIS: IS? What’s that?

BLAIR: In studio.

CHRIS: In studio. You’re watching NASA Edge.

BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA. In studio. It’s in studio.



CHRIS: Hey, welcome back to NASA Edge. We have a wonderful person right next to us, Robbie Kerns, who is the project manager for shuttle here at NASA Langley Research Center.

BLAIR: Yes. Is it alright if I call you Robbie?

ROBBIE: You can call me sir.

CHRIS: Oh perfect. Well Robbie, we have a number of questions from our fans. These are questions that aren’t what you typically find in FAQ or frequently asked questions.

BLAIR: I got that.

CHRIS: We have seven questions, wonderful questions…

BLAIR: From our FaceBook friends and MySpace friends

CHRIS: From our NASA Edge email address. Let’s start off with the first question. From SARAHh in Florida: In what order and how does the shuttle get stacked?

ROBBIE: The stack, as she refers to, is actually a combination of the solid rocket boosters, the external tank, which is the big fuel tank, and the orbiter itself. The stacking process actually begins with a mobile launching platform that they put inside the vehicle assembly building. Then they take the individual segments of the solid rocket boosters and ship them from the manufacturing plant in Utah. They ship them to the Cap and then they store them there. Then they take the external tank, which is made in a plant in Louisiana and ship it by barge. The orbiter itself is stored at Kennedy in the Vehicle Processing building. Once all the components are there in KSC, then they begin the stack up processes. They take the individual segments of each of the boosters. They start mounting them on the solid mobile launch platform. Then once the solid rocket boosters are assembled, they take the external tank and bring that in and bolt that to the solid rocket boosters. Then they bring the orbiter in. When everything is all bolted together, it’s ready for the three-mile journey out to the launch pad.

CHRIS: That’s all done by crane?

ROBBIE: There’s a huge crane inside the Vehicle Assembly building that’s responsible for lifting these critical items.

CHRIS: Let’s go to question number two. It’s from Chelsea in Huntsville, Alabama. Of course, Marshall Space Flight Center is right there. Her question is “How does NASA plan to get to the ISS or the International Space Station after the shuttle retires?

ROBBIE: Once the shuttle retires in 2010 then we’ll simply rely on the Russian spacecraft, which is the Soyuz and has been flying to the space station for years anyway.

BLAIR: Are the controls on the opposite side in a Russian craft?

ROBBIE: They fly on the right hand side of space, yeah. There’s always the chance that other international partners will have spacecraft as well that can dock at the station.

CHRIS: Oh, wonderful. So when the new vehicle is ready to go and comes on line around 2014 or 2015 we’ll rely on the Russian spacecraft.

ROBBIE: Right, then the Orion spacecraft will be able to carry it.

CHRIS: I hope that doesn’t interfere with you medianaut application. Because what’s happening Robbie, is he’s trying to become the first medianaut to go to the moon.

ROBBIE: He’s got half of it down. He’s got the nut part.

BLAIR: No, naut.

ROBBIE: Oh naut! I’m sorry I misunderstood you.

CHRIS: Question #3. This is from Hannah Sue who lives in Ark City, Kansas. What does NASA plan to do with the orbiters after the space shuttle program is retired in 2010?

BLAIR: Excellent question.

ROBBIE: Wow, there’s a lot of people that would like to know the answer to that question.


ROBBIE: EBay, may very well happen.

BLAIR: Awesome.

ROBBIE: The real answer right now is I don’t think anybody actually knows.

CHRIS: What they could do for example the heat tiles. There are over 24,000 heat tiles per shuttle and we have three shuttles. We could use some of those for education purposes, sending them out to schools to use in Science classes.


CHRIS: There are a lot of different parts in there.

BLAIR: It’s still cool.

ROBBIE: They could use them for trainers or simulators.

CHRIS: Used as a hotel with the cargo bay.

BLAIR: A little space camp addition there.

ROBBIE: As the largest space transportation system vehicle that’s ever been built, I’d be willing to bet that at least one of them will wind up in the Smithsonian. Maybe we could get it here at Langley.

BLAIR: Oh, dude.

ROBBIE: Wouldn’t that be cool.

BLAIR: Right in the studio.

ROBBIE: I like it.

BLAIR: Right off the studio. We go right out and get in the cargo bay.

ROBBIE: Put the studio in the cargo bay.

BLAIR: I like the way he thinks.

CHRIS: As an outsider, do you think you have enough pull to get a shuttle here?


CHRIS: Do you?

ROBBIE: Write your congressmen.

BLAIR: That will be the only avenue I’ll have.

CHRIS: This question is from our NASA Edge website. Here’s his question. The shuttle uses a system of tiles to protect its underside during reentry. We’ve talked about that. Why not cover the bottom of the shuttle with a thick smooth surface of strong material instead or why not coat the bottom of the shuttle with a superficial disposable material that wears away during reentry? Sort of like an ablator.

BLAIR: A what?

ROBBIE: You just answered the question.

ROBBIE: The material that he’s actually defining is called an ablator. It’s a type of material that actually burns away during reentry. But it has disadvantages for shuttle use, which is why it’s not used on the shuttle. Those being that the material, number one, is a lot denser than the tiles that they use therefore it’s a lot heavier. And the surface roughness of the ablator is not smooth enough to meet the shuttle criteria.

CHRIS: Okay.

ROBBIE: The tiles produce a really smooth flow of surface.

CHRIS: We have another question from Vincent in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.

BLAIR: Great question.

CHRIS: How are crew selections made for shuttle missions?

BLAIR: Draft.

ROBBIE: No, that’s the Army.

BLAIR: It’s like NFL draft. Is that right? Sir?

ROBBIE: No. It’s close though. Crewmembers are actually selected out of the Crew Office that resides at Johnson Space Center. The Crew Office is made up of people who have gone through extensive training to become astronauts. They have various backgrounds. Some are pilots. Some are scientists or engineers. Those folks are usually called mission specialists. The actual crew selection for specific missions is based on several things. It’s based on people’s background, what the requirements are of the mission.

CHRIS: Right.

ROBBIE: They try and match up the people’s skills with the mission requirements.

CHRIS: Robbie, we have one more question.


CHRIS: This is from Stephen in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is a good question. How is landing the shuttle different than landing a commercial jet?

ROBBIE: Wow, I’ve never landed either one of them but…

BLAIR: So much for the SME on this one.

ROBBIE: Well, I did stay at a Holiday Inn once. I think I can get most of this one right.

BLAIR: There you go.

ROBBIE: I think the biggest difference is the fact that the shuttle is un-powered when it comes into land.

CHRIS: It’s a glider.

ROBBIE: It’s a glider. Right. It’s a brick with wings. It apparently handles very similar to a large, commercial aircraft but you only get one shot.

CHRIS: That’s true. That’s right.

ROBBIE: There’s no fly around. So, if something goes wrong during the first try then that’s all you get.

CHRIS: I think we’ve come to a close on this show. Robbie, I want to thank you very much for being here in the studio.

ROBBIE: Thanks for having me. Enjoyed it.

CHRIS: You’re watching NASA Edge.

BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA. And even though we have a great guest, don’t get use to it. I’ll be back in this position for the next show although we would like to have you on again.

ROBBIE: I’d love to come back.

BLAIR: We’ll see you next time.

CHRIS: Have a great day.

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