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Low Earth Orbit 2030: A Live Recording of Episode 300

Season 1Episode 300Aug 4, 2023

Celebrating 300 episodes! To commemorate this milestone, we recorded this podcast in front of a live audience at Space Center Houston. We were joined by four special guests, who walk us through the future of a human presence in Low Earth Orbit, before opening the conversation up to an audience Q&A. HWHAP Episode 300.

A wide shot of a stage. In the center is the host, Gary Jordan. Behind (from left) is Angela Hart, Steve Koerner, Dina Contella, and Steve Stich all sitting at tables as they discuss the future of a presence in low Earth orbit.

A wide shot of a stage. In the center is the host, Gary Jordan. Behind (from left) is Angela Hart, Steve Koerner, Dina Contella, and Steve Stich all sitting at tables as they discuss the future of a presence in low Earth orbit.

From Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars, explore the world of human spaceflight with NASA each week on the official podcast of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Listen to in-depth conversations with the astronauts, scientists and engineers who make it possible.

On episode 300, we recorded this podcast in front of a live audience at Space Center Houston! We were joined by four special guests, who walk us through the future of a human presence in Low Earth Orbit, before opening the conversation up to an audience Q&A. This episode was recorded on July 27, 2023.

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Gary Jordan (Host): Houston, we have a podcast! Welcome to the official podcast of the NASA Johnson Space Center, Episode 300! Producer, Will add some cheers and stuff. [Applause] Alright? OK. OK. OK. Settle down. We did it! 300 episodes. We were so excited to reach this milestone. We knew we had to do something big. So we reached out to the visitor center next to NASA Johnson Space Center called Space Center Houston to help us to draw a crowd, anyone who wanted to come see us and record an episode for a live audience. It was a blast. And we’re recording this intro pretty much right after the event and still kind of coasting off of that excitement. But to help me to kick this off, and to introduce this magnificent event, I have Dane Turner, our new producer of Houston We Have a Podcast since our longtime producer, Pat Ryan, announced his well-deserved retirement. Dane, welcome to the team.

Dane Turner: Thanks for having me, Gary. I’m really excited to be part of the team now.

Host: Yeah, and it was an awesome event, man. I really had a good time.

Dane Turner: It was fantastic. It was so good to be there. And when you’re doing a podcast, you don’t get to see your audience and to have a live audience there, it was a completely different experience, and it was just so cool to have that instant feedback of an audience in the room with you.

Host: Yeah. And we had a lot of questions come in. Like, I couldn’t get to all the questions at the end. We did a Q & A at the end of this. It was so cool. But there was just a lot of, you know, all eyes were on us. It was a lot of engagement. And I talked to the, to the, the folks that are our guests for the podcast afterwards, and they just absolutely loved this. It was just a wonderful experience. And you, so when, before you came to NASA, though, you had an experience with Disney. Disney kind of led you here?

Dane Turner: That, that’s right. Yeah. I, I was an entertainment stage technician at Walt Disney World for about four years before coming to NASA. I had a lot of experience with special effects, some broadcast experience there. I’d been a, a broadcast TV director previously. And so, I, I brought all of that experience with me to NASA hoping that I could add, you know, a little more creative spark to what we were doing here. And, you know, we’re, we’re making some really cool things right now.

Host: Exactly. The podcast is one of them, but you and I are not just working on the podcast together. We’ve done some, we’ve done some cool stuff in the past. You talk about creative, right? The, the things that come to mind. We had Kelly Marie Tran and Naomi Ackie from “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” come here.

Dane Turner: Yeah.

Host: And they wanted us to film the experience. So we got creative control on basically, kind of being flies on the wall, but also, sharing their excitement and experience. And that was, that was a cool, that was a cool shoot.

Dane Turner: It was great. Disney and Lucasfilm came in with a, a team and gave us the creative control.

Host: That’s right.

Dane Turner: And we were able to work with them. They gave us the music to the, the film, and we got to put together this video about the experience of these actresses exploring Johnson Space Center. And it’s a great video. I, I recommend that anyone go and find that on our YouTube page. It’s, it’s just fantastic.

Host: Yeah. George Lucas was an inspiration for me and to do like, to have that control. We were doing wipes and, you know, those classic George Lucas kinds of things. And I just felt, you know, it was like a childhood dream come true, that shoot.

Dane Turner: As “Star Wars” fans, it was just so cool to get to, to put our mark on that kind of thing.

Host: And the Artemis II crew announcement video we got to work on together. Another one, we had a lot of creative control because we had to keep the astronauts pretty secret, so we couldn’t share the video with a lot of people for like, rounds, and rounds of approvals. We got to have a lot of control. And this was the one where it’s just like we had the silhouettes. There was a lot of hazers. That was your idea. Let’s bring in hazers.

Dane Turner: Yeah.

Host: Ah, it was, that was what, that was cool.

Dane Turner: Bringing that Disney experience to NASA, you know, doing all those special effects. We brought in the hazers, we, we brought in that dramatic lighting. And to be able to reveal the crew like that. It was so great to be able to, our, our team was just so fantastic, and everyone got to have their suggestion. You know, we, we, we took the suggestions from everyone’s team and we, we filmed everything that we possibly could with the astronauts within the time limit we had.

Host: Yeah.

Dane Turner: And we got to do all sorts of cool things. And almost everything that we shot made it into one of the videos. And it’s just fantastic.

Host: [laughter] It was quite an experience, man. And so, we, we filmed this, this event in 4K. We’re going to play it later on NASA TV. You, you were a part of, of that role as well. But you’re going to, you have such an interesting role here at NASA because you get to kind of have your hands in all of these different creative things. So it’s, it’s, it’s honestly, something I’m envious of, what you get to do. It’s pretty cool.

Dane Turner: It, it’s really neat. This new role for me. I was previously a live television producer working all the spacewalks.

Host: Yeah.

Dane Turner: And the, the astronaut downlinks and everything from the space station. All really cool stuff. But with this new role, getting to be the podcast producer, getting to be a, a video producer here on all of our, you know, all of our videos that are going to be on the YouTube channel. It’s a lot of really cool stuff. And we’re, we’re starting to, to ramp up some really exciting videos. And I can’t wait to share them with everyone.

Host: It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be awesome. But right now, we are talking about the 300th episode of Houston We Have a Podcast. You helped with this and make it, made it all happen. Dane, you ready to replay the event?

Dane Turner: Let’s do this.

Host: All right. Everybody, here is the 300th episode of Houston We Have a Podcast. Enjoy.

[Music] [Audience Applauds]

Host: Hey everybody, Thank you for coming here for a very special recording of our podcast. For those who are not familiar with us, we talk with scientists, engineers, astronauts, all the coolest people that you can think about at NASA and other places to talk about human spaceflight and more. And we’ve been doing this for six years. So long that we are about to come up on our 300th episode. So we thought about special ways to record this and work with Space Center Houston, and thank you to Space Center Houston for offering up this space to make this recording as grand and spectacular as it can be. Thank you very much. And thank you all for being here and being part of the live audience. This is very special for us. We were trying to come up with what exactly should we talk about for the 300th episode? And we wanted to do something rather grand. Now, how many of you have heard of Artemis? Artemis. All right. Lots of hands raised. OK. So this is our efforts to return to the Moon sustainably. Work on human presence on the Moon. The technologies needed to eventually bring us to Mars. And a lot of people, as you see, know that that’s what we’re building. That’s our future at NASA working with international and commercial partners. Now, how many of you’re aware that the whole time that we are building a sustainable presence on the Moon, we will be in a sustainable presence, human presence in low-Earth orbit the entire time? Lots of hands raised. OK. Now, the question is how are we going to do it? There may be some people that are familiar with that, but I think for the most part, there is a lack of familiarity in how exactly are we going to sustain human presence in low-Earth orbit? So what we’ve done is we’ve gathered the leading experts in building this future, and they are going to be with us today. So with that, I’d like to welcome the guests of the 300th episode of Houston We Have a Podcast. So first, representing NASA’s International Space Station Program is the Operations Integration Manager chairing the program’s mission management team to continue working with space agencies around the world to maintain a collaborative international pursuit of knowledge and discovery. She spent time in the Gateway program in flight operations, including as a flight director and leading an industry study effort in NASA’s low-Earth orbit commercialization goals. In her current role, she’s ensuring we get the most out of this international laboratory. Ladies and gentlemen, Dina Contella.

[Audience Applauds]

Host: Next, representing NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is the program’s manager who has aided in the execution of NASA’s goals to help private companies develop the capabilities to carry astronauts into low-Earth orbit. Capabilities like the SpaceX Dragon and the Boeing Starliner. Serving a long career at NASA in areas such as engineering, space shuttle, engineering, exploration in integration and science, and many more. He’s brought the experience needed to this program to successfully return human launches to U.S. soil. I give you Steve Stich.

[Audience Applauds]

Host: Steve. Thank you.

Steve Stich: Thanks.

Host: Representing NASA’s Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development program is the program’s manager, leading the agency’s goals to develop commercially owned and operated destinations or space stations. She served in the U.S. Army and worked in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before joining NASA where she held various roles including commercial cargo and Commercial Crew to prepare her for the responsibility of enabling the development of a robust space economy. Here is Angela Hart.

[Audience Applauds]

Host: And last, but certainly, not least, representing the Johnson Space Center right across the street where efforts like these, as well as many others are underway to support a commercial future in low-Earth orbit is the center’s deputy director with extensive experience in mission control and leadership roles around the center, including mission operations, aviation, human spaceflight training, and more. His leadership is helping to secure NASA’s and humanity’s future in low-Earth orbit and beyond. Here is Steve Koerner.

[Audience Applauds]

A wide shot of a state. (From left) your host, Gary Jordan, Angela Hart, Steve Koerner, Dina Contella, and Steve Stich all sit at tables as they discuss the future of a presence in low Earth orbit.

Host: Now, I’m excited to have this conversation in front of a live audience because if you’re an active listener of the podcast, I’m sure at the end of the podcast, you’re not like, well, that’s all the information I need. And then you move on. This is an opportunity actually to interact with the guests of the podcast. So after our recording, we’re going to be taking some questions. We will put up a QR code that you see right there. And at any point throughout this conversation, you can scan that QR code. If you hear something very interesting, go ahead and type in a question and I’m going to have them all come in right here. And I’m going to read them off at the very end of the recording and we’ll of course, capture that as well. So with that, let’s get started to record the 300th episode of Houston We Have a Podcast.

[Audience Applauds]

Steve Koerner serves as the Deputy Director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Host: OK. So, Steve Koerner, I’m going to start with you because we are right across the street from the Johnson Space Center, where efforts like these, talking about low-Earth orbit are underway. Why is the Johnson Space Center the place to lead these efforts?

Steve Koerner:Well, when I think of the Johnson Space Center, I think lead human spaceflight, that’s what we do, lead human spaceflight. We’ve been doing it for 60 years. We just recently celebrated our 60th anniversary. So what we do hasn’t changed, but how we do it, certainly has evolved. And so, today, the how, NASA has a goal to incentivize industry to create a strong economy in low-Earth orbit. And so, as part of leading human spaceflight, it makes sense that the focal of this effort’s at the Johnson Space Center, what we do hasn’t changed, how we do incentivizing industry and a strong economy in low-Earth orbit. Makes perfect sense that Johnson’s in the middle of it.

Host: And we’re going to talk about that. This, having a strong economy in low-Earth orbit, we’re going to focus on this area in space, not high-Earth orbit, not geosynchronous orbit. This, there is something very special about low-Earth orbit and why we want to have a sustained presence there. What’s special about low-Earth orbit?

Steve Koerner: Well, first of all, we got experience. ISS is there. That’s where we’ve been focusing our efforts for the last couple of decades. And so familiar experience. It’s certainly microgravity. So it has the benefits of being able to conduct research that microgravity offers. But it’s also close. And so, if we’re going to establish a, a strong economy access to and from, needs to be reasonable. And so, the fact that the proximity is close and it’s where we’ve been and we have experience, it makes sense that that’s, that’s where we’re headed.

Host: And experience is really the key. Dina, I’m going to go to you for this next question, because when we talk about the International Space Station, this football field-size orbiting laboratory we’ve been conducting science, engineering, we’ve been testing technologies. Everything we do there helps us with humanity on Earth and helps us to go to the Moon and Mars. But really, when Steve talks about experience, we’ve been doing that for 22 continuous years, coming up on 23 in November. So when he talks about experience, what is it about having continuous human presence for 22 years straight that really sets us up for success in the future?

Dina Contella: Well, first thank you, Gary. You know, I can’t believe it’s been 22 years and that’s continuous human presence. But we’ve actually, our first element went up in 1998, so we’ve been there a long time. And you know, back then, I was a young spacewalk officer, so I was teaching astronauts how to do spacewalks and we got to assemble the space station. It’s quite the engineering marvel. And so, we learned a lot in that process. But, you know, the space station has really evolved over time. And, and I’m not just talking about size and growing to football field-size, really the processes, what we’ve learned, the facilities, how to do research, how to get cargo to and from the, to and from the space station, we’ve learned so much and so, ISS and how does that translate into future presence? You know, I really think it’s the basis of a vibrant space economy. And so, let me tell you what I mean, you know, the, I’d say 20 plus years ago, you couldn’t close your eyes and realistically envision a bunch of rockets launching from U.S. soil with, carrying people to, to go to various destinations in, in low-Earth orbit and do work and live there. And now, and now here we are, fast forward to 22 plus years later, and we’re really on the cusp of seeing that. So ISS, it created game changers really, when it comes to this new space economy. For example, so we have transportation services to and from the space station. So we previously, when we used the space shuttle and other vehicles, like Russian vehicles and others to get cargo exclusively to the station. Now, we also have commercial services, like SpaceX and Northrup Grumman. And in the very soon, we’ll have Sierra Space delivering thousands of pounds of cargo to the space station every year. And so, imagine what this has done. So already, we’re creating more and more rockets and we have a transportation system. We’re ready to go from a, from that perspective, at least from a cargo perspective. And also, game changing in terms of Commercial Crew. And also, for private astronaut missions that are coming to the space station, and commercial research that’s happening on board the station. So it’s really been, I’d say, the basis for this new economy. And so, eventually, we’ll proudly hand over the reins to the next commercial companies, but I, I do think that ISS has, has really helped us foster a learning environment.

Host: And, and that’s really the genesis of my next question, is thinking about that, you talked about this evolution. We, we wouldn’t have imagined where we are 22 years… right now, 22 years ago. But there was, and you kept mentioning commercial. Commercial cargo. Commercial Crew. What was it about working with commercial companies and going that direction in order to satisfy our needs? What was so attractive about that when it came to continuing space station operations?

Dina Contella serves as the International Space Station's Operation Integration Manager.

Dina Contella: Oh, well, you know, the, the companies can design their own vehicles, use their own rockets, decide what is the most efficient way to do business. And so, each one of them has fostered their own way of doing that business. And in fact, the government is learning a lot about how to do things efficiently from those companies. But also, you know, we would like to eventually, step out of low-Earth orbit and let that vibrant space economy happen on its own. NASA would be one of many customers. We could send astronauts up and do some research, but we wouldn’t be the sustainers of the entire low-Earth orbit economy. And so, it was important to us from that perspective as well. So it’s been kind of a, a, I’d say, symbiotic relationship.

Host: And Steve, you are very familiar with that symbiotic relationship. You think about the Commercial Crew Program, coming up here is Crew-7. We’ve had rotational missions. We’ve built sustained human presence to, to launch from U.S. soil. And that’s the direction we went. You can consider that a successful endeavor. We have repeatable, rotational missions. Reflecting on that and where we started and what it took to build that capability and thinking about what went, the efforts that went into that, can and when you reflect on that, what exactly comes to mind?

Steve Stich: Yeah, first of all, thanks for having us today. I was part of the podcast and I’m, I’m, it’s an honor to be here and represent the whole Commercial Crew Program team.

Host: Of course. Yeah.

Steve Stich serves as the Program Manager for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Steve Stich: When I reflect back, you know, I’ll start all the way back for me, till like 2010 and 2011 when we were envisioning “what’s the next steps in commercial space?” We had, really hadn’t completed the cargo flights at the time. I was asked to lead a small team to put together, hey, what would the requirements for a Commercial Crew look like? And we did that using a small team. And then fast forward a few years later, we eventually decided to, to let the contracts for these for Boeing and SpaceX in late 2014. And what it really took is trying to work with the companies to take their strengths and then knowing what we needed for Space Station. We worked hand in hand with the Space Station Program. We knew we needed, you know, four crew members there continuously. We needed a vehicle for the first time in the U.S. that would stay on orbit for six months, was something we had to go put together and then carry up pow-, payloads in a very small capsule. And then, you know, the companies proposed a little bit of, of reuse, which was common to us in space shuttle. I got to work on the Space Shuttle Program for a long time. But the differences in reuse now with our vehicles are one lands in the water and we’re reusing a vehicle for in the water, a capsule for the first time, Starliner lands on land as a capsule and is being reused for the first time. So we kind of had to go through this evolution of, of designing the vehicles, testing the vehicles, and then getting to the first flight, putting crew on. And I think back to 2020, Angela was part of our Commercial Crew team at the time. And I mean, we were learning a lot, I would say on our program a little bit in the U.S. reinvigorating how to put people in space. I mean, it had been quite a gap. The last shuttle flight was 2011. Here we are now in 2020, you know, nine years later, putting people in space for the first time. We kind of had to build all that a little bit from scratch. And so that was fun. It was a lot of fun also working with the, the companies, because they had a little different approach. Boeing, I would say, has a bit of a more traditional approach with industry. SpaceX a little different. Designing quickly, testing quickly, evolving their vehicles quickly. And so, it was a really exciting time. And then when we flew that first flight with Bob [Behnkin] and Doug [Hurley] in May of 2020, I mean, it was a huge achievement. And then we had to step back and say, for me as the program manager, “holy moly, we’ve now got to figure out how to sustain this”, right? So how do I get Crew-1 up? And then, you know, we watched handovers with the Russians, how they did it miraculously for years. Now, we had to put together how are we going to do handovers with one crew to the next with the vehicles? How do I get the next vehicle ready in time to support that? That was the big evolution, going from that first flight, the test flight with Bob and Doug, which stayed a couple months to these longer flights that are now six months. And maybe we make it look easy. I would still tell you today, I don’t like to use the word operational, because it’s still a challenge. Every flight has its unique challenges. So.

Host:Right? I want to, I want to go back on a point you made about the companies having different approaches, because that, you know, we, we can sit in our comfortable mindset of, of the way that we have traditionally done things, but now we have to work on this new way. You know, there, there may have been resistance to, “hey, when a crew comes back, I want to land in the water.” And how, so how did you navigate through that, through the ideas to get an understanding of the comfort level to that, you know, this is ultimately, when they need to transport crews to and from, but how did we get comfortable with a new way of doing that?

Steve Stich: Yeah, I, I would say it was, it was a bit of a challenge for NASA because most people on our team sort of grew up in either the Space Station Program or the Space Shuttle Program. And so, we had sort of had a way we did things, but, you know, these companies would propose new and innovative ways to do things. For, for example, the electronics in Dragon is, uses parts that are commercially available. And so, we had to kind of work through, is that going to be acceptable to use for human spaceflight? SpaceX eventually proposed a, a Dragon capsule that had four parachutes, not the three that we were used to all the way back from Apollo. So we had to work through that with our team. Was that going to be acceptable? How they operated. And we had to sort of work on that. We, we turned operations, I would say, in management of the missions over to the contractors, which Angela and I got to work on that transition, setting up the structure for how we do mission management during flights and, and letting the contractors, we really wanted the contractors, SpaceX and Boeing to have that authority over their vehicles. They designed the vehicles, they knew the vehicles, and they needed to make the decisions relative to, to launching and landing in concert with NASA, but they needed to be responsible. So, you know, it took a little time. I would say there was some tension back and forth at times when SpaceX would propose something, where Boeing would, that was made a bit non-traditional. But I think the thing that was really a lot of fun to do is sort of work through it together. And I think, with NASA’s heritage of how we have done things in space for, as Steve said, 60 years, and then taking the new innovation from the, the new company, SpaceX and Boeing, merging those ideas together, we ended up with a better product, I would say.

Host: Yeah. And we, so when Dina, when you mentioned the symbiotic relationship, Steve, that’s exactly what you just captured. Commercial just presents a, a solution and say, “OK, let’s talk about it.” And it’s that conversation. It’s working together to come up with the solution and get comfortable with it.

Steve Stich: And the companies have great management, they have great engineers. I think we have great engineers also in the NASA team. It’s just sort of seeing a difference in perspective. And, and the companies are motivated by, can, can they fly fast? How do they manage costs? Right? Because these contracts are a little bit different. These are, these are fixed price contracts, and so, the contractors only get rewarded when they meet a milestone. And so, that gives them an incentive to control cost in a different manner than we’ve done in the past. There’s another symbiotic relationship between two different programs. For, for Commercial Crew, we have a symbiotic relationship with ISS, right? Everything we’re doing now for our mission coming up, you know, Crew-7 is to really help the space station. We need to deliver four crew members so they can be there to do the research that Dina talked about. And then we have another relationship with Angela’s program for the future as we’re going to take these vehicles to certify them and provide them for commercial LEO (low-Earth orbit) destinations, which I know Angela will talk about.

Host: That’s right. And so, Angela, we’ll naturally go to you to talk about that future, right? We’re coming up with solutions on how we can sustain human presence in low-Earth orbit, and the solution is commercial. So what exactly is that solution and what are we doing to achieve that?

Angela Hart: Yeah, I want to just go back to a couple points that both Dina and Steve made. Commercial destinations for NASA is really a natural progression of all of the commercialization effort that we’ve been doing over the last 15 years. And NASA really has been groundbreaking. When we talk to our international partners, we talk to other government agencies, we have really been in the forefront of this public and private partnership development and learning how to do this and seeing that this is a way to do business. It’s been hard, and we’ve had a lot, a lot of challenges as Steve had mentioned, but we also, NASA’s used to working through hard challenges, and that’s what we do best, right? And so, this is another arena where we get, you get people in the room and they think about, and you get the problem, and we all have the same goal. We will be able to come to a solution. And so, we started with commercial resupply, as Dina mentioned, commercial cargo, which was unmanned, right? So we started with the easy, I kind of look, used the crawl, walk, run, you know, example. We started with cargo, which was easier because we did not have humans on board. We were able to take a little bit more risk. We were able to test out industry and see what they were capable. Then we moved on to Commercial Crew, which is much harder. We now have a dynamic operation. We have crew involved. And now the natural evolution is commercial destinations. Once our pride and joy of the ISS, we decide it’s time to retire the ISS. We want to make sure that we don’t have a gap. That’s also a key piece to this overall strategy. We all lived through a gap of shuttle and not having U.S. companies providing transportation services. And we want to ensure NASA and U.S. leadership in low-Earth orbit. And we want to ensure that we always have a destination in low-Earth orbit, as Steve mentioned, in order to continue fundamental research and all the things that NASA would like to continue to do in low-Earth orbit. So it’d make complete sense for this to be the next step in that evolution. And then as Dina and, and both Steve had noted, we have a lot of experience now in low-Earth orbit and in managing a destination. And it’s time to start moving that experience and technology over to industry so that we can put our sights on Moon and Mars. And that’s exactly what we’re starting to do right now. And so, we took the successes from both of those programs, both of those, the commercial resupply program, and a Commercial Crew Program. Did a two-phased approach on how we moved into this development. Phase one is really a very strong partnership development timeframe where we’re letting industry think about how they want to do this, helping them, providing them resources, providing them technology, providing them our experts, reviewing what they’re doing, but not levying a whole bunch of requirements on them. We really want to keep the innovation space open in this phase one so that we can get the best ideas and then we will put out, just like we did for CRS (Commercial Resupply Services) and CCP (Commercial Crew Program), a fixed price contract to industry to provide those services and to go build that station that would provide those services post ISS. Another note that Dina mentioned that is different and does make this much more challenging than CRS and CCP is we want to be one of many customers. We don’t want to build, we don’t want a commercial space station that is only operated, maybe owned, and operated by a commercial provider, but only used by NASA. We want to open up space. We want to develop this economy. We want to expand, access to space beyond the government. And so, one of the big proponents that we’ve been working with industry is this idea that we are one of many customers. So a new proponent in this development process that we haven’t done in the past is really asking the providers to bring back to us, what is your business case? Who are your other customers? What marketing are you seeing? Where do you, where do you think this is going? We didn’t do that on CRS and CCP because we were going to buy the whole mission. You know, we were funding the, we were more than the anchor tenant. We will continue to be an anchor tenant for destinations, but we want them to also help us expand this economy. Because as everybody knows, we’re not going to be the one that, that designs that killer app that that takes off, you know, low-Earth orbit and opens it up where we’re all living in having hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people up in space. It’s going to be the commercial industry that takes that off and does that next step. And so, our job is to bring them that experience, bring them all that technology, hand that over to U.S. companies so that we can expand U.S. industry into low-Earth orbit, and then be ready to buy those services.

Host: And that’s already underway. We have agreements with four companies to, and we’re talking the symbiotic relationship that Steve, you were going off, it’s that same relationship with companies that are developing space stations.

Angela Hart serves as the Program Manager of NASA's Commercial Low Earth Orbit Development Program.

Angela Hart: Absolutely.

Host: Yeah. And so, now, you mentioned, you know, some of the ways that we want to build customers, and one of the ways that we can do that is we can continue to use the International Space Station. And so, what ways are we leveraging the International Space Station while it’s up there to build an economy?

Angela Hart: Right? There are a couple key proponents of that that we’ve been working with ISS. And ISS started this way before my program was envisioned, and they’ve been doing commercial science and commercial research and working with commercial companies for years. But the next step, and Dina mentioned some of the things that we’re doing today, private astronaut missions is an example. In this time period, where we’re working with companies, they need to test out these ideas. They need to test out their processes, they need to test out their astronaut training programs and their, you know, all the different things that take that you need to be proficient in, in order to own and operate a destination successfully. And really, the ISS is the only game in town to do that. And so, we’re very fortunate to have the ISS. And so, we want to envision every way that we can use that. Private astronaut missions are one, you mentioned the four companies that we have contracts or agreements with. Axiom Space, as you know, has a contract with NASA, and they are developing their space station as a start on ISS and then become a free flyer separately, our other three agreements with companies are to go straight to a free flyer phase. But that was another area that we envisioned. Maybe it’s smarter to help industry that way. And so, we put out a contract and, and, and bids on, would you like to come and try to build a space station where you start out on station, which gives you a lot of benefits. There’s a lot of benefits to being attached to station. There’s also a lot of requirements, you know, that come with that. And so, there are pros and cons. And so, we had companies that came out and Axiom won that contract. And then we have the three other companies that are working to just launch and build a space station just like we did, you know, from scratch, from the ground. And so that’s another way that we’re using ISS. Additionally, there are myriads and I’ll, I will not try to speak to it and Dina can add to it if you want, but lots of commercial companies onboard ISS that are doing all kinds of commercial things. We have 3D printers. We have airlocks, we have all kinds of things onboard that are owned and managed by commercial companies, and they are testing out commercial enterprises on station today. We also have the commercial activities on ISS, where we have another avenue where companies can come in and they can make proposals on things they would like to try out on, on station. And so, I think you’re going to see this over time as we get closer and closer to the, the commercial LEO destination contract and those destinations themselves, more and more companies coming and asking, “hey, I want to go test out my comm[unication] system and I want to test this out.” I want, and we’re starting to hear more and more of that. And so that’s how we envision using ISS in order to help them buy down risk, help NASA buy down risk as we move forward to destinations for the future.

Host: See, when we think about the future, the International Space Station is the way to test that out. You think about how to make this as successful as possible, how to give the companies the best chance at success for refining their processes, for working out this so we do have a robust economy, so we’re not the only customer. The International Space Station is the place to do it. So Dina, I think what, what, what Angela is talking about, when we think about the future and we’re thinking 10, 20, 30 years into the future, the idea is that the International Space Station as it exists today, is not, is not part of that future. Is, is the idea that we are going to transition to the commercial, to the commercial sector to provide those services way into the future? So while we have the International Space Station, what are the ways that we’re utilizing it right now to make sure that we are best prepared for that future?

Dina Contella: Well, and again, thank you, Gary. I think Angela has really said it very well in terms of the commercial side of it. Let me first for a moment talk about, and we’ve got several more years of our core mission still ongoing. We’ve recently had extensions by all the governments to continue operating the International Space Station. And so, we have things like the science including, let’s just say, there’s medicines we’re developing and there’s plant cultivations for future Mars exploration. We’ve got Earth observations. We see 90% of the, of the populated Earth. So there’s a lot of different aspects of our core mission. There’s technology demonstrations and going to the Moon and Mars, we really need to get those done now while we have a huge facility like ISS. So there’s a lot of that that we’d like to accomplish before we then transition over to the — new commercial LEO destinations. We’re anticipating those initially to at least be small. And the facilities might not be as, I’d say, large or robust. So for example, we have plant habitats, multiple plant habitats. We have a furnace, and we have glove boxes. More than one glove box where we can do biology experiments. And, you know, those are, are difficult. Some, some of those could be difficult on a new commercial destination. So we’re trying to get as much as we can, as much experience as we can from the space station for that core mission before we do that transition. And additionally, you know, we have got, like Angela has said, we’ve got multiple commercial facilities. We’re, we’re putting out, for example, material science outside of ISS for exposure experiments, but those can be commercial. And we, we have commercial examples all throughout the space station. And so, we’re trying to let these, these companies learn how you might operate in space. A 3D printer is not the same in space as it is on the ground. It’s already pretty complex on the ground, but then you make it in microgravity, it, it gets more, more and more complex. And so, but we want to create a game changer, if we can and let these companies explore some, something that could be really profitable for them in the future, for example. Or at least just give them the experience for using a facility. And how do the, you know, essentially, how are the interfaces even? What are the best interfaces to use? And so, there’s a lot of this handover that, that can happen in the, in the commercial sense. Private astronaut missions, so these are missions where the two most recent have been Axiom missions and they use the SpaceX vehicles. So a lot of, again, symbiotic relationship here and some history with a Commercial Crew Program and they’ve come visit, visited ISS, and they have both a tourism factor and also, other international governments have been partaking of these missions and they’re conducting a lot of research as well as, as commercial from a commercial sense trying to understand profitability and space. And so, the, the whole, the space station as a whole has been trying to accommodate as much as possible while at the same time, completing this core mission for the last few years. And trying to figure out, I think working with Angela, you know, what is the, what are we going to hand over and accomplish on, on a commercial LEO destination? A new one versus what we need to finish doing. So we’re in the process of working with Angela on all, on all those things right now.

Host: When you talk about the core mission and, and you referenced research and things that you can do in low-Earth orbit, I wanted to expand on that for just a minute, just for folks that may not know is the International Space Station being a laboratory, being a place in low-Earth orbit to utilize, and what we’re doing on the low, in low-Earth orbit is, you know, the whole reason that we want to continue in low-Earth orbit is because what we’re doing is important and interesting. Can you expand on the research, the technology development and why having that capability in low-Earth orbit is so important to continue, based on what we know from the International Space Station?

Dina Contella: Right? Well, you know, I, I mentioned a few of the science examples.

Host: Yeah.

Dina Contella: But let’s just take technology demonstrations. So when we go to Mars, we can’t have a, right now, we reclaim most of the water out of our urine, the astronaut’s urine. And we do that through putting it through a bunch of filters. And we have multiple devices that do that. But those are not necessarily, extremely long-term, very reliable. You can imagine that, you know, over time you would need to change various parts of that out. And so, what we’re doing is we’re testing on the space station, how can we make it more reliable and easier to change out components, smaller components instead of really large boxes? And we just last week changed out a pump in order to try to test that out. And it’s working great, by the way, it’s really doing well. But I just say that the, there’s technology demonstrations. There’s science, both external looking to space, looking to the Earth that we have, you know, thousands of researchers that have been using, through our astronauts, through our facilities that have been able to conduct research in all the different fields. Additionally, I just wanted to make a plug for education as well. So we, you know, our astronauts speak through ham radio and, and other ways to students all around the world really, you know, a world united is a good thing, and, and world-inspired for, for, for education purposes, you know, for science and math. That’s, that’s really key. So, so anyway, that’s part of our core mission. So now, let’s look into Angela’s world for a moment. So when we get into commercial destinations, well, a lot of those same things will be applicable. You know, we won’t know everything we need to know before we go to the Moon and Mars on something like a urine processor necessarily. We might need to test something in microgravity for six months or a year, and it requires human interaction, requires urine, and so, we might need to use these commercial destinations for such a thing. So again, with astronauts training and other, and other, there’s a plethora of reasons why NASA will want a few services in low-Earth orbit. We just wouldn’t want that at that time to be our main mission. We just want to test some things out so that we can go to the Moon and Mars. So that’s why one of many customers. Anyway, but that, those are some of the thoughts that I have as I think about the station, this current space station and how we’re using it and how we might translate that to a transition.

Host: And of course, Steve, you’ve been working on the transportation to get humans to the, those low-Earth orbit destinations. But I think one thing we can go circle back on is the idea of, you know, we talk about an economy, right? And in an economy, you need a competitive environment. So we’re working with SpaceX, we’re working with Boeing. When you talk about, thinking something that can sustain for years and years and years, why is, why is it important, important that NASA participates in developing a competitive environment for crew transportation?

Steve Stich: Yeah, that’s a really good, really good question. I want to add one point to what Dina talked about relative to the space station. I, I think it’s a huge platform for exploration, right? And, you know, if, if you look at how the space station helps us for exploration, think of it like it’s easier to get to the space station than it is to the Moon or Mars, right? So if you test something on the space station, you can iterate a little quickly. Like she talked about life support systems, regenerative life support, ways to not carry everything with you. I think we’re learning it on the space station. For example, we’ve flown a version of the Orion waste system for the crew toilet, right? So on ISS to test out. We’ll fly spacesuits for exploration also on the space station to test out. In Commercial Crew, we’re flying, Boeing is flying a docking system, which we tested last May for the first time, NASA docking system. A derivative of that will be used for Orion. So when you talk about symbiotic relationships, there’s one I think with the space station and Commercial Crew Program and exploration as well. So that then feeds the next program. But in terms of the commercial environment and, and providing, you know, flights for the, and this competitive environment, you know, one of the things I think we see is, if you have different providers and different strategies, it, it kind of helps control, I would say, cost a little bit because it is a competitive environment. And so, we want to get to the point, you know, today, we’re very fortunate to have SpaceX about to fly. And it’s hard for me to believe, as I think back to Bob and Doug’s flight in 2020, about to fly our eighth, have our eighth launch here, just in a few weeks. We’re going to bring Boeing online to have that redundancy, right? So we really want to have redundant crew transportation, two dissimilar systems. The Dragon capsule is different than Starliner, and the launch systems are different. And having those two different systems, I think is, is a check against the, the whole industry a little bit to keep things under cost, under control. And that’s something we’ve seen, you know, it’s a competitive environment, you know, both companies wanted to, to try to get their product to the market first. And that created a lot of innovation along the way. I think we will see that also with the commercial LEO destinations. There’ll be a real focus to try to get to, to low-Earth orbit first with a space station. And then for our program, we’re really excited to have our vehicles, you know, be there, potentially as the backbone for Angela’s transportation system. Not only are we working with Boeing and SpaceX, but we’ve started SpaceX agreements with other companies to have those transportation systems. Blue Origin, Sierra Space, and also, SpaceX as well with a, a derivative of perhaps Starship or Dragon. So we really want to see our vehicles carry forward. So perhaps, and it’s really up to the companies to choose, but in some ways, if you utilize the vehicles we’ve developed, maybe that can lower the overall cost for them. Now, we have to look at how those vehicles fit into their, their mission needs, how many people that they need to carry, and where they put their space stations and so forth. So.

Host: Angela, when, you know, as we’re hearing everything about what this future looks like, if you were to paint us a verbal picture of success, what does the future of human presence in low-Earth orbit look like? What is happening? What is up in space? What is, what is a successful, robust economy? What does it look like?

Angela Hart: I’ve gotten this question before, and this one’s, it’s really hard because I think, in the long run, I, I’ll give you, I’ll give you my, my vision, but it’ll probably be something totally different that we never even could think of, right? Because that’s the way these things kind of go. I, I do think it’ll be evolutionary, just as Dina noted. We will have early operating stations that’ll come in that will provide a core capability that we need. I did want to plug, we, the ISS National Lab[oratory], It is a, you know, a official U.S. National Lab[oratory] and we have gotten commitment from the NASA agency that we will continue a U.S. National Lab[oratory] on the commercial destinations. Now, exactly how that will be done and what it will look like is still being developed, but we realize that the government still needs to provide that subsidy to fundamental science in space. And so, that is a key area besides all the tech[nology] demos and exploration work that we will need to do, is that we want to continue that fundamental science and as well as that outreach and education activities that ISS do today that are super important. So we will definitely plan to continue to do that. And so that’s what the state, that’s what the NASA commitment to that commercial economy’s going to look like. We’re going to continue to meet our exploration needs. We’re going to do national research as well as collaborative research with our international partners. But what I see else is being done, I, I expect this to be evolutionary, as you mentioned. I think they’ll start out with a smaller capability and as their users define other needs, they will build on to that capability, whether that’s NASA as a, as a need, whether that’s DOD (Department of Defense) or whether that’s a commercial research entity. Some of our destination providers are already working with different research teams, with universities. They’re developing research parks. They’re envisioning a totally different way of doing research than we do it today already thinking about that. So I expect that will look different. I think they are really trying to figure out ways to be more quick in turnaround on how you get science back to the ground and how you iterate on that science. They’re really thinking about that problem really hard. ISS does a great job, and the transportation vehicles do a great job on that, but that is something that they hear from industry that they really want. So I, I see that that will be a change, because they’re all working really, really hard on that problem. And I think they will come to solutions that will allow us to iterate and really do breakthroughs much faster, right, than, than have, be having to wait till the next flight that you’re bringing up a cargo vehicle. Now, exactly how that’s going to look, I don’t know, but I have a lot of confidence they’ll do that. I think you’re going to see an expansion of tourism and entertainment when the costs come down. That’s why it’s super important. The other work that, that CCP is doing and Steve’s team’s doing to broaden the transportation industry for them to be more innovative and drive these costs down. We’ve already seen really exponential cost being brought down by SpaceX, just by the innovations they’ve done in the last couple years. And I expect that’s going to continue. And that’s really where the precipice of this vision really takes off. So when you can get the price per kilogram, price per pound down to much more reasonable, now, you are really expanding space to a much larger audience to, you’re not just governments that have millions and millions of dollars or, wealthy people that can afford a, you know, a $40, $50 million seat. And you’re getting it down into universities and researchers and a lot of other aspects that we can’t even think about right now. We, we sat down one time, and we came up, what are all the ideas of things that you can do in space? Sporting events, obviously, entertainment, these would be all really great things that I’d love to see, you know, on TV someday. But, you know, we’re not there yet, right? And so, but I expect that that’s where we’ll be in 2040. We’re going to be there in 2030, but it’ll be an evolution. And as we move from 2030, 2040, and they’re expanding that business and finding more and more of those business cases as transportation costs start to come down because we’re learning and doing more as we start getting better — communication capabilities and data, I mean, just look at the data rates and things that we do today compared to what we did back in shuttle. As all that stuff exponentially increases the ideas and what you can do with it completely change.

Host: It’s kind of an exciting exercise. You can think of so many different things. Let your mind go wild. The Zero-G soccer field, a Zero-G movie studio, research parks that we can’t even imagine, manufacturing facilities. It’s kind of exciting to let your mind kind of go and say, but, but the idea is that we’re, we’re building this to allow the industry to naturally just do what it’s going to do to fulfill the customer base, attract new customers so that we’re not the only one.

Angela Hart: Right? And I think it’ll be, it will look different than just one big giant space station app, right?

Host: Sure, yeah.

Angela Hart: Right? For, for success, we’re going to have multiple platforms with different capabilities. You might have a platform that is just concentrating on un-pressurized payloads that are looking at the Earth. You may have a platform, like you said, that is doing manufacturing. A lot of the things that ISS is doing today on manufacturing of different types of FDA-type products, drugs really require pristine environments, and they don’t really like having humans around, right? You know what I mean? They, and so maybe there’s a different kind of manufacturing arena that is, that happens on a different platform because they need, you know, super-detailed, clean rooms that can be all done automated. That’s where I think that we’re heading. There’s a lot of technology, there’s a lot of money that has to be spent to get there. And so, it’s not going to happen overnight, but I think we’re taking those first steps. I don’t think anybody thought we would have the successes that we have today on Commercial Crew. If you just go back, and I don’t have the, the numbers here. I have a chart. If I had charts and I’d show it to you. But if you look at the number of launches just a number of years ago that are happening per year to the number of launches that were happening today, that’s, that’s just mind boggling. No one would ever thought that we could turn around that many launches and anybody could be launching multiple times a month or every month. And we are seeing that, and I think you’re going to see that in all the other technology streams as more and more innovation happens.

Host: Steve, to, we’ve been talking about commercial low-Earth orbit development, International Space Station, Commercial Crew. Steve Koerner, there’s more going on to support all of these different endeavors. And we talked about the Johnson Space Center at the very beginning, but there, we, we’re, we’re focusing on these three programs, but to really give us a sense of just the scale of the efforts behind what everyone here is doing, what else is happening that maybe we haven’t addressed yet?

Steve Koerner: Yeah. So certainly, these programs are the CG (center of gravity) of, of commercialization efforts. But in our technical orgs, for example, in engineering, it’s, we have facilities that perhaps some of these companies, rather than build themselves, would want to utilize for the near-term vacuum chambers. And we just had some non-government mission, SpaceX efforts in some of our chambers to facilitate their, their getting, getting to space. Flight ops training opportunities, how, how operations is done, utilizing some of the architecture and our command control network. Again, goal being how do we incentivize, how do we stimulate others getting into low-Earth orbit effectively? Pound to orbit is expensive, but so is infrastructure to support that. And so, what infrastructure do we have that they might want to utilize? Another piece that comes to mind is the research on, on humans. The medical community, the research community on, on people, is desperately trying to mitigate risks to go to the Moon and Mars and sample size matters. And so, I know some of our human research efforts have reached out to commercial industries to utilize, studying some of those individuals to help our situation and providing data to help their situation. So, we’ve talked a lot about technologies and equipment that we’re utilizing on ISS to enable exploration or to enable commercial LEO development. Getting the people there, and from nutrition to health to exercise, all those types of things are being thought about. Again, with the goal of how do we stimulate this economy?

Host: Steve Stich touched on this a little bit, but, and, and others as well. Just the idea that of, you know, to reiterate why we’re here and, in low-Earth orbit and what, what is so important about it? Now, we have research that can benefit humanity, but it’s, it’s been driven home that there is this sustained, the, the idea of being there for long periods of time and testing technologies and continuing to refine the human research better understand what it takes to live on the Moon and Mars. From your perspective, deputy center director, how, how are all of these efforts with, with everything we’re doing here in low-Earth orbit, how are we — information sharing? How are we working together to make sure we’re continuing to press forward to the Moon and Mars?

Steve Koerner: Yeah, so, the goal being to stimulate commercial industry to be successful in low-Earth orbit, the intent there is we absolutely still have a need to be in low-Earth orbit. It was referenced. There’s science, there’s technologies, there’s things we need to accomplish in low-Earth orbit, but us being the sole tenant or the anchor tenant or the, the only ones there cause us to have to focus our own resources there. And so, the benefit of others being there, we can focus resources toward Moon to Mars exploration. We benefit hugely from bipartisan support. Our budgets are, can’t complain that while we may not get as much as we want, we are very appreciative and recognize we get a lot of dollars to go do this. But being able to move those resources that have currently been in low-Earth orbit in order to go to the Moon sustainably and onto Mars is important. And so, allowing commercial industry to kind of fall behind and pick up that capability that we can just take advantage of is huge for our, for our efforts.

Host: Taking a snapshot of everything we’ve done, everything we’ve talked about today, and all the efforts that are underway to enable this future and all the efforts for Moon to Mars, how do you feel about where we are and where we’re going? Do you think it’s, it’s the right approach? Do you think we’re heading in the right direction?

(From left) your host, Gary Jordan, Angela Hart, Steve Koerner, Dina Contella, and Steve Stich are gathered at tables as President and CEO of Space Center Houston, William Harris, stands at a podium to introduce the live recording.

Steve Koerner: Oh, you bet. It, it’s spaceflight’s hard and so, it was interesting to hear her describe her envision future, which is awesome. Anybody who’s in this game knows it’s hard. And so, how can we work together to facilitate making this successful, whether it’s with other industries or international partners and spaceflight’s hard, but it’s worth doing. The, the science drives why we’re doing it, but, absolutely necessary. So, I think the thing that makes it, it, you know, you asked, are we doing the right things? The, the fact that we’re not going at it alone, we absolutely need to lead, but the fact that we’re not going at it alone is hugely successful with industry and with other international partners. I, I couldn’t architect a better way to go do it.

Host: And that’s sort of naturally evolved in the International Space Station program, right? We touched on the commercial side of things, but it’s an International Space Station and, and they’re coming along for the ride as well, maybe potentially customers for the future. Dina, kind of catapulting off of that and, and thinking about that as like closing remarks. How do you feel about the where we are now and what we’re building and the future of the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit?

Dina Contella: Well, absolutely, our international partners have been really critical to get us where we are today. We’ve all learned from each other just like we’re learning from, from the commercial side of the house. From a U.S. standpoint, I, something else as a closing remark that comes to my mind is that, you know, like a century ago or so, don’t quote me, we, we didn’t have the commercial airlines that we have today with, you know, we’re jetting around of the summer holidays, and we’ve got our families, and we didn’t have that a century ago, and the government bought mail services, delivery of mail. And from that has spawned an entire industry that is helping, benefiting all of us here today. And so, you know, then along came maybe ten years ago, we started to have commercial services, transportation into low-Earth orbit for human spaceflight. Again, it’s a benefit. And I, then the next thing is going to be commercial destinations. And I, I think we don’t even know yet how it’s going to benefit all of us, but you know, your grandkids maybe, and may end up in her destination. Same with the international partners. We’re, we’re trying to figure out what is our best, you know, worldwide, how do we unite just like the commercial airline industry has, and, and really create a global type of infrastructure. So anyway, those are my thoughts as I’m sitting here listening is, I, I do think it’s really the wave of the future. I do think that is, we’re going in the right direction and, I, you know, I think I’m starting to get the vision. Hopefully everybody else is too.

Host: [Laughter] Steve, how do you feel, closing remarks on just where we are and, and the future of Commercial Crew Program, how you feeling?

Steve Stich: Yeah, I, I think it’s a really exciting time in Commercial Crew, you know, about to do our seventh launch with SpaceX and having, bringing Boeing online very soon to have that capability. And then long-term supporting, you know, Angela’s commercial space stations. You know, Angela talked about what’s the future look like for the commercial space stations? I mean, I, I’ll just hold up this, this iPhone and if I think about my lifetime, you know, ten or 15 years ago, I don’t know if I could envision a phone like this doing what it does. I could sit here right now and get sports tickets, book a flight, check the weather, call somebody, many, many more things just with the phone. And I, I think commercial industry, this is kind of what commercial industry does, where they may see, and, and many times it’s, it’s motivated by a, a profit line that they see somewhere that we, on the government, struggle to see. I think that’ll, that’ll happen in low-Earth orbit someday over time, as they, we let industry innovate and figure out what’s best for them in low-Earth orbit and helping them along the way. And then if I just look at the space station and exploration, you know, I, I think we lose sight of how challenging it is to operate the space station. And you could almost say that’s a model for operating a base on the Moon or Mars, because you have to transport the crew there, even though it’s a different, different way to get there. It maybe is harder to get to the surface of the Moon, but you have logistics of how much food, waters, experiments. We’re learning how to do that. We’ve learned how to do it for over 20 years on the space station. I think that experience will, will help us for Mars. And, and, and someday not only the technology, but just the operations. And as we talked about doing it with commercial partners and international partners, which is hugely important. I mean, we’re excited, the flight we’re about to fly, Crew-7, we have a, a U.S. astronaut, we have an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut, we have a JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut, and we have Roscosmos astronaut, first time we’ve ever had that compliment now in commercial crew. So that’s sort of the way we’re going to do exploration and space station, and then Angela’s program are going to help us get there. So.

Host: Angela, lots of support. Everybody’s on board for, for this vision that you painted for us. Do you feel the same way?

Angela Hart: No, absolutely. I think we’re headed down the right path. And I, I want to second what Steve Koerner said. It will be hard. We’re going to have a lot of challenges along the way, and we, it may not be the exact that we envisioned in the beginning, but I think we’ll get there. And we’ve, we’ve seen all of these efforts through, we had challenges, as Steve noted on Commercial Crew, we’re going to have challenges on commercial destinations. Being one of many customers is not something we’re used to either, right? I mean, that’s something we have to learn how to do. So just as we had to learn to open up to new ideas from industry when we, when we started the CRS and then the CCP program, we had to figure out how to work with industry. We’re going to have to figure out how to work with private citizens, not just industry, right? So there’s a lot of challenges, but I think we’re heading in the right direction, and I know we’ll get there. Exactly what date we’ll get there, I don’t know? But we’re working really hard and we’re planning to be there when we need to be there as soon as we need to be there when we no longer can count on the ISS anymore. So we’re, we’re ready to, to step up. And I think industry is as well.

Host: All the efforts are so incredibly exciting. Angela, Steve, Dina, Steve, thank you so much for coming on the 300th Episode of Houston We Have a Podcast and sharing this vision. This has been a fascinating conversation, and you could tell every, there’s so much energy behind it and so much effort. It’s, it’s, it’s very inspiring to hear the, the future that you all have painted for us. So big round of applause for our panelists today.

[Audience Applauds]

Host: OK. So now we are going to, because this is a live recording, we can actually open it up for questions. And this conversation may have sparked some interesting ideas. I have a couple coming in. The first one is, this one’s for Dina. High-level, “how will astronauts maintain their health? For instance, how will they exercise? How will their diet be monitoring?” We’ve learned a lot on the International Space Station. I’m assuming that will carry forward, those needs will have to carry forward for commercial destinations as well.

Dina Contella: Well, a lot of our astronaut needs are driven by how long they’re in space. And so, if you had a short mission, for example, a lot of us worked in the shuttle program prior to the ISS program, and we didn’t have as much need for exercise, but we still had the need for air conditioning, for example. So there, there’s certain things that are, you know, a necessity. And then, but as you go longer and longer and longer term, you need, maybe more medication. You might need more exercise. Right now, we exercise for about two hours a day, each astronaut does, and we have specific requirements for doing a treadmill, for example, as you get closer to needing to walk after, say, a six months mission. So we have different requirements, but again, if we were to use a commercial destination for a short-term flight, then we wouldn’t, we could maybe use exercise bands or something that, that’s a little bit less intrusive. But we start to need to lift heavy weights if we’re going to go do a longer-term mission. And in going to Mars to Moon and Mars aren’t, we’re anticipating longer and longer-term missions. We will be wanting to test those, those devices out, and that their effects on human physiology for our astronauts as well. So, you know, we’ll, we’ll need to look after that. Nutrition as was mentioned, will be something that will continue to involve. You know, we, we have specific nutritionists who look and try to figure out the number of calories and the type of micronutrients that our astronauts are having and, and how that might change, if you were going to be in zero gravity for six months, you might, versus a year, all that gets worked out. So, and I’ll just say that there’s a lot to think about and that we’ll all translate, and we’ll be able to hand that over to industry and say, this is the macronutrients we would recommend. And then they won’t have to do any of that research. And this is the type of exercise devices that we would recommend. And then again, it’s like a boost. It’s like giving them a boost, just like the mail services a century ago, but we’re helping them out so that they don’t have to do that research. And then we’ll use it ourselves when we go to the Moon and Mars.

Host: Wonderful. All right. The next one is for Steve and, and perhaps Angela, this one’s on protections or rules in place to ensure the number of commercial missions as the number of commercial missions grows, low-Earth orbit doesn’t become unusable due to pollution or too many ballistics objects. Just, I guess, overcrowding, thinking about that, Steve, your, your work with Commercial Crew and maybe just think, working with FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and how that relationship comes up and, and if you think about increase of traffic, how does, how does that work?

Steve Stich: Yeah, I, today with the space station, I think traffic management and planning the missions is, is one of the things that is the most exciting in a lot of ways to try to figure out how long can I put this vehicle here? It’s on this docking port, then that vehicle leaves the next one comes up. So I think it’s something we’ve got a lot of experience with and can share. I mean, I mean, you know, in, in terms of this, as Angela talks about having some, some day after International Space Station, we have multiple destinations. I, I think there’ll be lots of opportunities for vehicles to come and go. The companies are going to have to figure out, like today, Joel Montalbano, Dina and myself spend quite a bit of time thinking about, OK, this flight’s coming, it’s going to be there for six months. Now, how do I work a cargo flight into this port? We have two docking ports on the space station. I think the companies are going to have to decide how they’re going to manage that. Are they going to do a six-month flight, which might tie up a docking port for six months? Are they going to do, you know, three-month flights? And so, you know, I think the transportation to and from probably won’t be an issue. There’s lots of experience that we’ve learned in not creating debris, right in, in low-Earth orbit. And we do that with our program. The vehicles that we’ve built do not leave objects in, in low-Earth orbit for long periods of time. We try to make everything decay that it can. I think we’ll have to share that experience with the companies, right? We want them to not be a debris source, just like the International Space Station is. And neither are the commercial vehicles. And so that’s something that’s just a long-term problem that we’re all dealing with, is these man-made objects that are in space that eventually the atmosphere kind of decay, brings them down and, and cleanses the atmosphere. But it takes a while when there’s some kind of events.

Angela Hart: I would just add to that, that through the requirement set that we levy on destinations, which will include their transportation requirements as well as what the FAA is doing, as, as they’re continuing to, to figure out how we will regulate low-Earth orbit in the future, which has not currently been defined. The U.S. I think is very strongly a proponent in ensuring that we don’t continue to pollute space like we had maybe in the past and weren’t really thinking about the future. And so, by levying requirements for controlled reentries or return, we can help do our part to do that. And I expect that those will be requirements that will be levied in, into anything that is a U.S. contract will ensure that we are doing those best practices to make sure that we’re not making the problem any worse than it’s today, because there’s a lot of debris up there today.

Host:Perfect. I think there was some inspiration when we were talking about the, the limitless ideas of what we can have in low-Earth orbit. And so, Angela this one’s for you is in what areas can we imagine a commercial, commercial manufacturing in low-Earth orbit? What does that look like?

Angela Hart: Well, I’ll say a few things and then maybe Dina can add.

Host: Sure.

Angela Hart: ISS has been working in space manufacturing with industry for a while, and they have a number of different areas that they are currently working in terms of many of you can go look at ZBLAN fibers or we are looking at retinal production. And so, I do believe all of our partners have partnered with pieces of these kinds of industries, and they are talking with customers about what types of manufacturing facilities they would need, what kind of requirements would they need. We’re still kind of in that early phase of determining how, what, what does it look like that you produce? Is it worth producing in space over the ground? Does it give you enough of a benefit? Is it that much better that the cost is so, so they’re still in that business trade aspect and still trying to figure out how to do that. So the scalability of real production hasn’t happened yet, but all of our partners are talking to industry in these specific areas. They either have components of their own company that is looking into that, or they’re partnering with different manufacturing industries that are currently working on station to investigate some of these options. And so, I believe ISS plans to continue to do that for the length of ISS. And I expect we’ll see more and more breakthroughs from the work on ISS, and then the destinations will be able to capitalize on that. And their step will be how do you create that into a manufacturing module or, or the next step because we don’t really have room on station to, you know, give up a whole module for somebody to go just produce items. So I think that’s where you’ll see that transition.

Dina Contella: And if I could just tag onto that, I would just say, you know, if you were to launch lead and turn it into gold and bring it home from the space station, you would lose money. That’s how expensive transportation is. So if you have dreams, you know, visions of grandeur about manufacturing, you really have to make something that is easily transportable and that is, is worth, it’s worth doing. It makes, it can make, it can be profitable. And so, we’re trying to create game changers, and I think she’s mentioned a couple, but so fibers is one of them. Fiber optics, for example. You, you lay fiber optics for communication. But we can’t make fiber optics that are, you know, and, and on orbit you can make a very perfect glass fiber. You can imagine a microgravity, how that could be really useful. But you can’t make the length of that, that goes across an ocean and then bring that home and it’s going to break. And so, there’s just — there’s the practical nature of that, but you could make these fibers that, maybe are really good for performing surgeries that are used in the medical community, for example. So we’re still trying to create game changers like that that could, we could create perfect fibers, but, you know, that, that’s just one example. But again, it has to be very profitable, transportable, and that’s what we’re trying to, to try to help these companies hone in on. And she mentioned retinas. So, you know, organs, we can actually create in microgravity, we can create something like a retina, and it can be hardened and brought back down, and it’s very small, it’s transportable and that can help cure blindness. And so, it is a really, really cool technology, but it is not there yet. And it is not necessarily, you know, a, a in profit, I’d say, it’s in research and development right now. So we’re trying to help companies create these game changers that could be super beneficial for life on Earth also. And then it makes it profitable just by the nature of it. So we’re, we’re trying to create these things as best we can. But it just takes time and effort and, and being in low-Earth orbit, it’s really helpful at this point. And, you know, we’re hoping that we can just help industry, help themselves essentially by just allowing the facilities to launch and be on board and having our astronaut hands, you know, able to actually perform the work. So that’s what we’re trying to provide.

Host: And continue that research. So eventually you can get to that sustainable manufacturing…

Dina Contella: Right?

Host: But we got to work out the kinks.

Dina Contella: Yep.

Host: So is anyone on the panel an aerospace engineer? OK, so I have a career, I have — a question about…

Angela Hart: Don’t ask me anything from college. [Laughter]

Host: It’s an equation. It’s about, if for, for a student, if, a student in the audience wants to know how to pursue an aerospace, like what, what that would be like pursuing a, a degree in aerospace engineering and what that could lead to?

Steve Stich: I, I, I could start and I, I do have an aerospace engineering degree from, I’ll throw it out, Texas A&M. Any Aggies? Yeah. OK. You know, I, it was great for me to get the degree, and it was a lot of hard work, I would say, but you, you know, you got to find a, a school that suits your need. And, you know, most of the time people that pursue aerospace engineering, I was probably a geek in high school. I liked, you know, math and science when I went to a small Catholic school at Corpus Christi, Texas. And I had read all the books on aviation and space in the little library there when I was up through sixth grade. So, at one point I was, you know, I didn’t really even know what an engineer was when I was growing up. Everybody said, “yeah, you should go be an engineer.” I’m like, those are people that drive trains, right? So I, I had to go, you know, do a little research and figure out what it was. And then, you know, I, I started at A&M, as a chemical engineering major, and then I realized, I don’t even like chemicals that much. Now, I deal with chemistry all the time in my job. So, but, decided that I liked orbits and orbital mechanics and how vehicles fly in space and got an — aerospace engineering degree. And, you know, it just, I think it has to be a fit for something that’s a passion within you. If you really like aviation, if you like spaceflight, if you like satellites, aerospace engineering is certainly the place for you. And, and I look back on my career at NASA and getting that degree, it’s, it was the right move for me, and it’s been awesome. I learned so much working here. And you know, one of the things that you’ll learn in aerospace engineering is every day there’s more to learn. I would say every day at NASA, there’s more for me to learn. So it’s just been an awesome experience. So I would advise, find the right university. You know, if you, in the state of Texas, there’s many, many good ones. And even outside the state of Texas, there’s lots of good places to go, pick your place and, and then pursue your passion. If that’s your passion.

Dina Contella: If I could just add, NASA wants you, so please pursue that degree. I chose aerospace engineering because of the word space, and so I didn’t know what an engineer part was or the aero part, but then I, I learned a lot about airplanes when I got to college. And it really, it was, it was a good fit for me also at Texas A&M is where I went as well. But, anyway, whoever wrote that, please pursue your dream. You can also pursue something else. Mechanical, computer science, other things will get you if you are interested at NASA. And you’re not really interested in, in as the specifics of the, of the aerospace curriculum. So, but we want you, so come join us.

Angela Hart: And need you.

Steve Koerner: And need you. Yeah, yeah. Let me add a couple thoughts to that, too. Just like I said earlier about spaceflight is hard. Engineering’s hard going to get the degree through college. So set expectations that it’s, it’s hard, and I’m not trying to shy you away from it because it is very rewarding, but you need to have the expectation that it’s going to be, roll up your sleeves and do work, which the, the opportunities you heard, want, need. The space economy is rapidly expanding and so, I can’t think of a more, more likely degree to be able to be placed in the, the work environment around here than that. Just last year, I was at a conference where a lot of startup companies were in a panel like this, and a question got asked to the kind of the CEOs of this startup, what’s your number one problem? And they all agreed the number one problem was the number of engineering students coming out of college, not even able to fill their recs that they had on the streets to hire. And so, yeah, I would absolutely encourage you. Wanted, needed, necessary. Very rewarding.

Host: Wonderful. This next question is about as it’s continuing that conversation we were having about the research and the technology, and we talked about Moons and Mars, but this question’s on, we, we, we kind of touched on the benefits for humanity. And so, in what ways, Steve Koerner, if maybe you’ll start and then Dina, if you can, if you can add on, in what ways are the things that we’re doing on the International Space Station and learning, what technologies, what capabilities are we learning and, and refining on in low-Earth orbit, and then bringing them back down to Earth to benefit all of us?

Steve Koerner: Yeah, so several things come to mind. You know, the, the reason we do all this is for the science, for the research. How can we benefit humanity? I mean, it’s, it’s exciting to, to launch into space and to, I’ll use the expression bore holes in the sky, but that’s not why we’re there, we’re there for the science. And so, what, what about what we’re doing is beneficial. We go to great lengths to try to communicate some of those things through social media sites, but one that comes to mind, every readiness review in Dina’s program, they talk about benefits that have been occurring with some of the research. And just a couple days ago, they talked about development of, of cells in a 3D way that can’t be manufactured here on the ground, that can be manufactured in low-Earth orbit, that may, may contribute to solutions to neurological and muscle issues like ALS or diseases that are impacting us, solutions may be existing out there. So I like how Dina said it, that we’ve got ideas, we’ve got things we’re, we’re starting down the path, but it takes time, effort, and energy to, to bring those to, to resolution. And so, space station is a perfect laboratory for those types of things. And Dina, I don’t know if you want to add.

Dina Contella: Well, I’ll just, you know, of course, medicine is a key area that will benefit us all. And I’m sure you’ve all heard of the NASA spinoffs, you know, just things that just naturally occur. And so, one of the one that came to mind is related again for some reason I have urine on the mind maybe, but our water filtration. But, you know, we are all around the world, people are using filtration devices that were spinoff from the technology that we’re developing on the space station itself. And if I could, I would just like to make a plug for our international collaboration. I know that’s not the technology maybe to the question, but, you know, really think about all these agencies building this space station, this microgravity laboratory, the size of a football field, all coming together. And, you know, that collaboration happens despite the politics that happen on Earth. And it really, I think, binds together nations and at times when it, it makes it difficult to do so. So anyway, technology, you know, hopefully we’ve given you a flavor of that, but really just kind of get that, that flavor of the whole International Space Station and what it, what it does for us here on Earth.

Host: That’s a perfect segue to the next question, which is, and it may be for Angela and for Steve as well, is how will Commercial Crews continue to foster good international relations? And I think we’ve seen that with the recent Axiom space missions. We’ve seen multinational crews. Steve, you mentioned Crew-7. Every seat is occupied by a different space agency. So how can we continue to see this in the future?

Angela Hart: I think our international collaborations will continue, like they are today. We’re going to do a lot of technology and science collaborations with the international partners we have with the ISS, but with the Artemis Accords that NASA’s doing, as well as even bringing up private astronaut missions. We’ve now brought up astronauts from Saudi Arabia and, and all new as different space agencies that we currently are not part of ISS not part of our original international partnership is being expanded. ISS has also worked with the UAE (United Arab Emirates), and so this is going to continue to grow as space becomes more accessible and there’s more opportunity and there are more seats available. I don’t know if Dina can talk about it, but when they decide who gets to fly on that, that flight, you know, that’s quite a conversation, right? Everybody would like to be there. And, and it’s difficult to, to, there’s just not as many seats as we’d like to have, right? So PAMs (Private Astronaut Missions) have offered an opportunity for a lot more people to get to come to the ISS, and hopefully as we get multiple destinations, we will have even more opportunity to expand. And as those other international space — excuse me, space programs grow, we’re going to see other things that are going to change, other aspects that they’re going to look at the problems different than we do because their cultures are different and their countries are different, their people are different. And that’s going to bring a whole [a]nother perspective. And I really appreciate Dina’s note that we may be exporting technology and different lifesaving solutions to, to the ground, but we’re also exporting this expanse of humanity spaces for all of us. And I think there isn’t an astronaut that doesn’t come back, that doesn’t provide some kind of speech about the awe that they see and how they know that we’re, you know, we’re, we’re Earthlings, right? We’re not U.S. citizens, right? We’re, this is our planet and space brings that to us. And I think all of us feel that.

Steve Stich: Yeah, I, I would add right now we have a, a United Arab Emirates astronaut on board. So we’ve expanded beyond the traditional Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, Japanese Space Agency, Roscosmos and the U.S. So that’s been really interesting to watch. And then, and then as Angela said, I mean, there’s a lot of excitement. When we got, we’re getting ready for Crew-7 the other day, we talked about how many, the country’s talked about how many astronauts they had flown, how many ESA astronauts we had had, how many JAXA, how many, three Russian astronauts now flown on our vehicle. So this international partnership is, as Angela said, I think it’s hugely important not only for the success in space, but also here on the ground. Because if we can work together in space, I think it helps countries work together better here on the ground as well. So, and I think that’s going to continue as the, with these commercial space stations as well.

Host: Dina, I think you’re the perfect person to answer this next question. It’s thinking about low-Earth orbit and what we do there, going to the Moon and Mars, you spending time in Gateway, how the, how are the solutions derived from the International Space Station going to be used for Gateway and comparing some of the differences?

Dina Contella: Well, so Gateway, if you don’t, for those that don’t know, Gateway is going to orbit the Moon, and we’re only going to visit it every so often. So maybe once a year, for, for, we’re going to send crew members over to Gateway, and then down to the surface of the Moon and back up to Gateway. Gateway’s located in, it’s further away from Earth, so it’s outside of the Earth magnetosphere. So there’s different opportunities and different challenges, in terms of the radiation aspects and what that will do to the human body, what that will do to our equipment. And so, the, the space station is great for microgravity research. And, and as Steve mentioned, we have a lot of human research still left to do just in microgravity, and not just by research, but countermeasures. How are we going to keep our crews healthy? And now, we’re going to go take that, what we learned there, and we’re going to go to Gateway, and we’re going to see how does the radiation affect the crew members there. And we’re going to have longer and longer stays at Gateway, and then that will prepare us to go to, to Mars. But again, the radiation effects will be the, the next delta. And it’ll be really fascinating actually, because then we’ll just, we’ll know everything we know about microgravity, and then we’ll just say, all the deltas must be related to radiation. Or maybe we don’t have a, a big enough subject size. So then we’ll question that. So there’s all these aspects of human researchers. There’s aspects of the technology demonstrations, you know, we want to do. So here, here in low-Earth orbit, we can do a lot of research where we, we send the research up, we send a bunch of samples, we bring it back down, either frozen or, what have you. Even just when the, in the next month, they could come home and just do like an ice pack. But when we go to Gateway and then when we go to Mars, we won’t have that benefit. So we’ll have to do in situ research. In other words, we’ll have to, right there, DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence it, we can’t bring it home and then DNA sequence it because we, it’s not, it’s too much turn turnaround time to bring the samples home. Too much overhead. And so, we’ll probably be asked, take a look at these in situ devices on space station. Let’s see if microgravity if these things will work in microgravity. The, it really, you know, lack of gravity really does impact the technologies. And then those will be used later, when we get to Gateway, which is much smaller, and we visit only for a very short period of time, less crew time, less cargo there and back. So, anyway, the, I can see us transmitting all kinds of things or helping to, helping Gateway, the Gateway team in general, get their technologies together to make them more compact, and make, make research available to them when they get there.

Steve Stich: I also think there’s some help, you know, help directly, right? For the Gateway, like the docking system that I said we’re flying on the Boeing Starliner. That docking system, those derivatives will be used to dock vehicles to the Gateway, kind of the robotics. I think we’ve learned a ton of robotics on this International Space Station that can apply to Gateway. Then there’s a deep space logistics vehicle as well, right? So we have cargo vehicles that come up to the, the space station and drop off cargo and then resupply or take cargo back to the Earth. I think that’s going to be another key thing that we’ve learned for the, for the Gateway. It’s in a different orbit around the Moon as, as Dina talked about. But some of those same, you know, concepts apply that I think we’ve learned on space station that will apply to the operations at Gateway as well.

Host: I think for this last question, we’ll maybe go down the line, because it kind of, kind of expands on that aerospace engineering question, but Steve Koerner, if we’ll start with you, is what inspired you to join NASA and what inspires you every day to stay here?

Steve Koerner: Yeah, to, I was never one of those individuals that all my life said I want to work at NASA. I always in the back of my mind thought I am interested in human spaceflight, human space exploration. So maybe the space and aerospace that Dina mentioned was something, but didn’t really fully appreciate, was that something that was obtainable or not? And so, certainly pursued opportunities that would make this attainable. In anything that I do, I look for three things. Am I going to have fun? Am I going to provide value? And am I going to learn something? And human spaceflight, I, I can’t think of something that would score higher in all three of those categories than human spaceflight. So, super excited to be here and doing this, this great endeavor.

Host: That’s awesome. Angela, what about you?

Angela Hart: Kind of similar story. Coming to NASA later in my career, you, you mentioned, I, I started out in the military and, and other government service and then, and then got here, something that always seemed from a country West Virginian, you know, something that seemed pretty unattainable, you know? I always was into math and science, and I did get an engineering degree, but I kind of went a different path to get there. And so got here as fast as I could, but it always amazes me when I talked to my coworkers who knew from six years old, this is what they wanted to do. They’ve been interns, you know, they started at an intern and then they came, and they’ve been here and, and they never want to retire. They stay here 40, 50 years and never and never want to leave because this is an amazing place to work. For all the reasons that Steve said, but also because I’ve never been anywhere, having been other places, I’ve never been anywhere where every single person is here for the same reasons. We’re all here for the mission. We all come together for the mission, and it is so important to us, and we see the benefit of what we’re doing that other people don’t get to see. We see the benefit of what we’re doing to the world every day. And I think it’s why NASA has been, you know, the best place to work in the government for a long time because we just have this shared amazing vision that we all are part of. And so, even though you might have some challenges, or you might not have the best-looking office compared to, you know, you know, compared to the commercial, you know, space company, and we’re working on that. Steve’s working on that. We…

(From left) William Harris, President and CEO of Space Center Houston, Dina Contella, Steve Stich, Gary Jordan, Steve Koerner, and Angela Hart all pose for a photo with the crowd during HWHAP's 300th Episode Live Recording.

Steve Stich: Thanks, Angela.

Angela Hart:…we, we, the, what we do is what really, really matters, right? I mean, you didn’t go work for the government because you wanted to become rich. You, you came here because you wanted to make a difference. And, and that means something to every single person here.

Host: Dina, what keeps you coming?

Dina Contella: Well, you know, everybody’s driven by something different, and you know, maybe you’re a people person or what have you, and I’m an achievement person, so I really like to achieve things, and I get an opportunity to do that every day. And so, you know, even at the end of a really hard, long day, and I say, “wow, I did a podcast today”, but I’m like, “I achieved a podcast today.” So, but so, but there’s a lot, there’s a lot of achievement though. It really is. And so, when we go and, you know, we launch a flight and we dock a flight and we, there’s achievement all over the place to be had every day. And there’s so much teamwork as Angela has mentioned as well. Just the common mission, the common goal, and even on my hardest, longest day is still a great day in the office, every day.

Host: Wonderful. And Steve, to close us out.

Steve Stich: Yeah, I, I would say, you know, what inspired me to come here was, was probably Apollo, watching the last few Apollo missions when I was a kid on TV. It was just inspiring to watch NASA put people in space and on the Moon and return them safely to Earth. And then always kind of liked math and science. And so, I kind of went off and, and pursued that. You know, in school I took a lot of math and science, liked that. I liked hard problems. I don’t know why I’m probably a weird person but didn’t mind rolling up my sleeves and tackling a hard problem. And then, I always knew spaceflight was hard and I really wanted to come here. I came here in eighth grade for the first time and made a field trip to NASA and was kind of got the bug then. And then when I went to A&M, got a degree and was able to interview for a job, was fortunate to get picked. And I’ve had lots of fun experiences in my career, working in mission control, being a flight director, being in engineering, leading orbiter development and, and flights, and then now in Commercial Crew. And I would say every day is a fun day. We have so many bright, smart people that we get to work with every day. Engineers, scientists, experts on the health and human factors, all kinds of things. And, you know, every day is a lot of fun. It, it’s hard. You’ll be tired at the end of a day. I mean, I’m tired when I get home, but, you know, putting people in space is still one of the most challenging things that we do as humans. And I’m just proud to be a part of that every day. And it’s exciting to be here. So.

Host: Wonderful. Thank you all for your participation in this podcast. I’m glad you achieved the podcast, Dina. So thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.

[Audience Applauds]

Host: Couple of more quick things before we let you guys go. I wanted to thank you, the audience, for being here for our live recording. This is super meaningful to me, and to the podcast team. So thank you very much for attending and, and listening to our live recording. I did want to take a moment to just recognize the podcast team if you guys would stand both current and former. The reason why we are here, go ahead, Dane, don’t be shy. Jennifer, I see you. It’s thanks to you guys that we are at 300. So, this is a very special achievement and it’s all thanks to you doing it every single week. Thank you very, very much.


Host: Hey, thanks for sticking around. This was just a wonderful experience. I super enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with some smart people and have a lot of contributors to actually make this event as successful as it was from the stage direction to the promotion to working with Space Center Houston. I, I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the 300 milestone than, than to do this. It was such a wonderful thing and I hope you enjoyed the conversation. I really do. Check out for the latest happening across the agency and check out to listen to all of our other 299 episodes in no particular order. If you want to talk to us, we’re on the Johnson Space Center pages of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can use the hashtag #AskNASA on your favorite platform to submit an idea for the show. Make sure to mention this for us at Houston We Have a Podcast. This event was recorded on July 27th, 2023. Lot of thanks that went into this particular episode. But first, Thanks to Will Flato, Justin Herring, Dane Turner, Abby Graf, Belinda Pulido, and Jaden Jennings, the podcast team, for all their great work to make this possible. Thanks to Space Center Houston, especially Kimberly Lobit, Haley Muff, Crystal Garza, Chance Sanford, Katie Thomason, Rochelle Barnes, Illiana Luna, Michael Hare, William Harris, and the staff that helped to make this recording as spectacular as it could be. Thanks to Lesa Spivey, Andrea Dunn, Linda Grimm, Sumer Logins, Jessica Cordero and Heather Kinney with NASA public engagement for their coordination and outreach for the event. Thanks to Leah Cheshier, Sandra Jones, Rebecca Wickes, Kenna Pell, Jessica Landa and the support team for ensuring the guests were ready. Thanks to Charles Clendaniel, Josh Valcarcel, and Estefany Ramon, and James Blair for capturing the event in photo and video – I cannot wait to see it. Thanks to the Johnson External Relations leadership team including Arturo Sanchez, Cindy McArthur, James Hartsfield, Carla Santiago, Brandi Dean, Megan Dean, Dylan Mathis, Tim Hall, and others for their support to enable this event to happen. And of course, thanks again to Dina Contella, Steve Stich, Angela Hart, and Steve Koerner for taking the time to go on the show. A very special thanks to Alex Perryman, Pat Ryan, Dan Huot, Jennifer Hernandez, Norah Moran, Bill Stafford, John Stoll, Greg Wiseman, Heidi Lavelle and the many who have contributed so much as former members of the podcast team to get us to 300 episodes. Finally, thanks to you, the listener, for tuning into the show, giving us feedback, and sharing your stories of inspiration. Without you, there is no podcast. We’ll be back next week with the astronauts and cosmonauts of Crew-7.