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Rocket Ranch - Episode 7: Turning Space Trash into Gas

Season 1Episode 7Dec 21, 2018

As we plan to send humans farther into our solar system than ever before, we must overcome a myriad of challenges. And at the top of the heap… is trash. Just like here on Earth, humans in space create trash—but we don’t have interstellar landfills. What we do have are super smart scientists and engineers working on converting trash to gas.

Rocket Ranch podcast cover illustration

Rocket Ranch podcast cover illustration

Joshua Santora (Host): What if you had to live and work in the same room as all of your trash? Not just the bottle you just tossed, or the sandwich wrapper from lunch, but all of your waste, including what comes out of your body.

[ Eagle screeches ]

Launch Countdown Sequence: EGS Program Chief Engineer, verify no constraints to launch.

EGS Chief Engineer team has no constraints.

I copy that. You are clear to launch.

Five, four, three, two, one, and lift-off.

All clear.

Now passing through max q, maximum dynamic pressure.

Welcome to space.

Joshua Santora (Host): As we plan to send humans farther into our solar system than ever before, there are a lot of challenges, and at the top of the heap… is trash.

Dr. Anne Meier:On a one year mission a crew of four will produce about 2,500 kilograms of trash.

Joshua Santora (Host): But we don’t have interstellar landfills. What we do have are super smart scientists and engineers working on converting trash… into gas.

[ sound effect ]

Joshua Santora (Host): So, I am in the booth now with Dr. Annie Meier and Jake Hochstadt.

Annie is kind of reeling right now because she’s actually very new to the title of doctor, and I love to embarrass her by talking about it.

Annie and Jake, welcome.

Jake Hochstadt: Hello, hello.

Dr. Anne Meier: Thanks.

Joshua Santora (Host): And as with any great program, the OSCAR project is an acronym.

What does OSCAR stand for and what’s the overarching goal here?

Dr. Anne Meier: OSCAR stands for Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor. So, syngas is actually a shorter term for synthetic gas.

Synthetic gas is usually a mixture of things like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane, which are very simple — we call them permanent gases that are very small molecules that can be used as building blocks for other things, whether it be for life support or for fuel production.

So we’re creating this syngas and then converting commodities, so that’s how we got to OSCAR.

Joshua Santora (Host): Annie, what got you really interested in trash and recycling? Did you have a really messy college roommate?

Dr. Anne Meier: [ Chuckles ] Yes but no.

[ Laughter ]

Jake Hochstadt: Didn’t we all have a messy roommate?

Dr. Anne Meier:No, my roommates were pretty clean, actually. They were tidy. I’d say — So, it’s kind of funny.

I grew up in New York, and it always fascinated me how many people lived there, and how much waste could be processed.

We used to actually have — The Atlantic Ocean is on the south shore of Long Island and Queens and the lower part of Staten Island, and when there was a big storm or, say, a Super Bowl — everybody, you know, flushed the toilet at the same time or a big storm, the storm walls would overflow and all the trash and waste water would go into the ocean and you wouldn’t be allowed to go on the ocean, you know, until it was cleared because things like needles would be washing up or hazardous stuff.

So for me I became fascinated with, “Wow, how do we manage all this trash?” Whether it’s people’s garbage in their house or, you know, when you flush the toilet, where does it all go?

And, funny enough, my grandfather was a garbage man in the Bronx, so growing up, we heard a lot of stories of him being a garbage man in New York City, and so the history and the trash of New York actually just fascinated me, and it was crazy because I read this book where I learned we were just taking our trash, putting it on barges, and just dumping it into the ocean before things like the EPA were started in the ’70s.

And so I thought, “Wow, we’re killing our Earth and our planet if we don’t manage our waste properly.” And guess what.

That was a long time ago, and we still haven’t figured it out as a planet, so for me, when I started working at the Space Center, and I heard — I was kind of brought in on this waste-conversion project, I was like, “Wow, this is fate.

This is just awesome.” So I feel like it really meshes well with my synergy of wanting to save the planet and figure out the waste problem but also having sustainable space travel, so that’s kind of some of the history there.

Joshua Santora (Host): Cool.

And so, obviously waste conversion, you mentioned that, Doctor.

So I want to kind of key on that a little bit.

So, why is NASA so invested in trash conversion?

Dr. Anne Meier:Okay, so, no matter where we send humans, they’re always going to have trash, just like when you go camping here on Earth or you’re sitting in your living room, you’re probably producing trash.

And on a space mission, the day-to-day trash, we call that logistical trash, which is like food packaging, their clothing after they’ve worn in it, as much as they can. It all becomes trash.

And aside from that, you also have human waste, such as fecal and urine, so no matter where we send those humans, they’re gonna be producing waste.

That’s gonna take up space. It’s going to have to be stored somewhere. It’s going to smell. And it costs so much money, so why we really like our project is because it provides a sustainable avenue towards deep space exploration.

If those astronauts are creating this large pile of trash, why not do something useful with it like get back the useful stuff that’s inside of it, like the raw materials?

Joshua Santora (Host): When you say raw materials, what do you mean? Are you talking about, like, terrestrial recycling of plastic kind of a situation?

Dr. Anne Meier:Sort of. So, what we’re doing — There’s a lot of different ways you can process waste.

You could either melt it back down and use it as 3-D printing feed stock if it’s plastic, but in our case, we’re looking at taking the solid and making it a gas, and we don’t get everything into gas form.

About 10% gets left behind, and that’s either left over as liquids or metals that can be repurposed. So, like a metal, that would be a raw material that we’ve recovered and you can use for either 3-D printing or shielding or something like that.

And then the rest would be a gas, and the gas, you can either use it as a fuel or you can dispense it safely off the spacecraft, and now you’ve created a whole bunch of room for the astronauts to do other stuff, like cool science or live happily in their confined environment.

Joshua Santora (Host): How are we currently dealing with the trash that we’re creating in space?

Dr. Anne Meier:So, right now, on Space Station, the crew takes their trash and they put it into bags, depending on if it’s liquid waste or dry waste. We would call it wet waste or dry waste. And they go into two different types of bags.

And then those bags actually get stored in additional bags, called cargo transfer bags, and once a visiting vehicle arrives, which is a vehicle that is launched from the Earth and attaches to Space Station, the astronauts then transfer all those cargo transfer bags into that visiting vehicle, and then that visiting vehicle separates from the station and goes back down into Earth and burns up in the atmosphere.

So all of that waste that’s been accumulated for however long they’ve had it up there, basically just burns up.

Jake Hochstadt: That might work okay. Obviously it’s not ideal if you’re burning up trash and just wasting it, but it might work okay on the International Space Station, but when you’re on a six-month mission or a nine-month mission to Mars, you can’t just be ejecting trash somewhere in the middle of space, so you have to deal with that trash, so you either have to keep it on your transporting vehicle, take up a bunch of space, or use our trash-to-gas concept.

Joshua Santora (Host): How do you quantify how much trash a human makes?

Dr. Anne Meier:Okay, so, on a one-year mission, a crew of four will produce about 2,500 kilograms of trash.

Jake Hochstadt: 2,500 kilograms is about 5,500 pounds.

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, so if you converted all of the waste from a one-year mission into, say, methane, all of that gas was getting used as fuel, the current public documentation for taking something off of the surface of the Moon and bringing it back to an orbiting spacecraft, it’s enough methane to provide fuel for that engine of that ascent vehicle, which is pretty significant if you think about it.

I mean, you’re saving fuel that has to be launched from Earth, kept cool.

You can actually produce it from the astronauts’ trash, so it’s pretty significant they, if it is chosen to be used as a fuel.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, when you talk about methane gas and being produced, so we’re talking about breaking down trash on a very molecular level. Is that correct?

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah. So, the main trash is plastics, which are basically oil products, and so they’re these long-chain hydrocarbons, and if you think of hydrocarbons as these long chains of carbon molecules and the stuff that we’re exposing them to in our reactor are, like, chopping up those molecules, all those little molecules break down, and some of the smallest molecules, once you add, say, hydrogen for example, you can get methane out of it, so that’s how we chemically manipulate it in the presence of heat and different chemical compositions and pressures.

Joshua Santora (Host): Cool. So, Annie, tell me about your role on the project this year. What are you doing for OSCAR?

Jake Hochstadt: She’s leading us. That’s what she’s doing.

[ Laughter ]

Dr. Anne Meier:So, yeah, I guess my title is Team Lead, and I coordinate all of the awesome team members that we have.

They’re multi-disciplinary, so we have everyone from Jake, who’s electrical software, we have people from Safety, we have people from Communications.

For us, a young or early career team that is moving so fast and is trying to fight bureaucracy and kind of going outside of the norms of the NASA culture or even traditional workplace culture, I’d say is very unusual around, around this neck of the woods.

Joshua Santora (Host):OSCAR is funded by the Early Career Initiative or ECI. ECI is a research and technology initiative run out of NASA Headquarters and is designed to do three things… develop the next generation of NASA technologists, develop exciting and innovative technologies to achieve NASA’s goals, and encourage the use of innovative and agile methods and processes.

Joshua Santora (Host): That’s really, really a big part of why OSCAR exists today.

Jake Hochstadt: Yep.

Joshua Santora (Host): So can you tell us a little bit, kind of big picture, what is the early career initiative?

Jake Hochstadt: So, the early career initiative — I’m trying to think the easiest way to put this, is — it’s mostly the core team of ECI project or Early Career Initiative is members are within 10 years out of college.

So the idea is NASA is trying to figure out new ways to approach problems, and they’re trying to get the younger folks to look at a problem a little bit differently than the more traditional way.

Dr. Anne Meier:It changed. It’s eight years.

Jake Hochstadt: Oh, it’s eight years?

Dr. Anne Meier:Of working for the government.

Jake Hochstadt: Oh.

Dr. Anne Meier:So it takes all ages, just eight years of work experience.

Jake Hochstadt: I didn’t know that.

Joshua Santora (Host): So is this a project opportunity that’s open to everybody?

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, they’re highly competed across all the centers, and so, for the first round, when Jake was on it, they did two projects, and then, for this round, they did two projects, so those are competed amongst the centers, and then you have to survive the center down selection, and then survive the headquarters down selection, so it is not a common thing to see at NASA. But it’s exciting.

Jake Hochstadt: Yes. So, if I can also add what makes working for Anne so great, not to toot my boss’s horn, but she’s very technical. She’s Dr. Meier, right? So, she’s not only leading us.

She knows what she’s talking about.

Dr. Anne Meier:Or do I?

[ Laughter ]

Dr. Anne Meier:Just kidding.

[ Laughter ]

Jake Hochstadt: So it’s great to have a leader that’s actually in the weeds with us on the day-to-day process, helping us through developing this project.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, Jake, what’s your function on the team?

Jake Hochstadt: So, I guess –

Dr. Anne Meier: Tooter of Horn.

[ Laughter ]

Jake Hochstadt: So, I wear multiple hats, I think.

I have the electrical background, so I guess I’ve been doing more making sure our lab view and our hardware components talk with the software.

Joshua Santora (Host): And were you all starting from scratch on this project? Is this kind of the ground floor?

Dr. Anne Meier:I’d say we had a lot of heritage knowledge from the prior trash-to-gas project, but when it came to designing a waste reactor that could work in a micro-gravity environment, we were starting from the ground up.

We went from concepts on whiteboards to designs on napkins, all the way to proper engineering schematics and paperwork that you would expect to see in a designer view, all the way up to building, prototyping, and then testing, and now we’re analyzing data, so it’s been kind of a full circle, which is also unusual for something to happen that fast on a project.

We started in January. It’s already December, and we’ve gone from design, development, build –

Jake Hochstadt: PVS approval.

Dr. Anne Meier:Pressure vessel systems, and it’s a high-temperature, high-oxygen system, which is considered hazardous, so we’ve had to be very careful in how we rapidly design.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, Annie, I know in the trash-to-gas project of the past, you all used some simulants to kind of mimic human waste. Is that correct?

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, we have a recipe for poop and a recipe for urine.

Joshua Santora (Host): And are you using those for OSCAR at this point, or is that, like, for the future sometime?

Dr. Anne Meier:We will be, probably in January is when we’ll start doing fecal and urine in the reactor.

Why is that crazy? Everyone has waste. I mean, where do we think this goes? It’s not magic.

Joshua Santora (Host): Yeah, but nobody’s… Nobody’s thinking that NASA engineers are playing with, like, fake poop and fake pee all the time. Like, that’s not normal…

Dr. Anne Meier:We would use real poo, but it’s considered a biohazard on a daily basis, so really smart people came up with the recipe.

And it’s published.

Jake Hochstadt: There you go. NASA engineering — we created poop.

Joshua Santora (Host): Can you give us a verbal description here of what does the system do and kind of what does it look like in general?

Dr. Anne Meier:I want to hear this from Jake.

[ Laughter ] What’s Jake’s take on it?

Joshua Santora (Host): So, Jake, what does the OSCAR system do?

Jake Hochstadt: It converts — I think the simplest way to put it, it converts trash to useable gas, right? Not to use that term from the old project, but we have this reactor that we inject trash into.

Joshua Santora (Host): When you say inject, do you mean, like, you’re, like, chucking trash into this?

Jake Hochstadt: Pretty much. So, we have a reactor that doesn’t have trash in it, then we have this little separate compartment where the trash is, and when the time is right, we inject the trash into the reactor, where the reactor is already preheated.

It’s nice and hot, so when the trash goes in there, it combusts, and then we collect all those gases from the combustion on the separate collection bottles further down.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, are you working — What kind of scale are you working on? Are you working on the scale of full-size food plastics?

Jake Hochstadt: No. So, we’re cutting up — We’ve been burning or combusting cotton and food packaging, and what we’ve been doing is we’ve been cutting it up into 3-millimeter or 1-millimeter chunks of food packaging and cotton and then injecting it into the reactor, so no, it’s not scaled to the full size. It’s just a miniature reactor.

Joshua Santora (Host): Okay, so, pretty small scale right now.

Jake Hochstadt: Correct.

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, we’re limited on size because we have to progressively demonstrate this concept in micro-gravity, so we’re going to different drop towers, and the drop towers only allow you to drop something of a certain size, so if you can imagine we’re working at the shoebox size now, but eventually there would maybe be a reactor that is maybe a small trash can, like an actual trash can you’d find in your house size.

So we are scaling it down just because we’re confined by our test methods, but we’re still able to get enough data on the concepts and the designs and the gas and the food flow and things like that from all the testing.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, you said this was the end of the first year of the project. Does the project have a specific life span or are you just going for a goal and when you reach the goal, the project is done?

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, so, the Early Career Initiative was only a two-year project when the funding was awarded, so the project will end formally January of 2020.

But something that I’m doing as the team lead is looking at future infusion of where can this go in the future, where can this go on other NASA missions, and so there’s a lot of research calls that come out or something that you actually helped with, is talking with industry and seeing how our work can reach back to help or take knowledge that already exists in industry and bring it back into our work, so the idea is to keep going forward with it because trash is still a problem and is not a solved solution for space travel, so, yeah, Early Career Initiative will end, but this work will keep going on, I hope.

Jake Hochstadt: So –

Joshua Santora (Host): Go ahead, Jake.

Jake Hochstadt: No, I was just gonna add that I guess the linear progression, we started out with a concept on paper. We just finished our two-second drop tower test.

We’re moving to our five-second drop tower, and then eventually a suborbital flight, and it just makes sense after the suborbital flight to eventually scale it up, get it on the ISS or even further than that.

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, because this is stuff that not only are we learning for waste conversion, but even the science of solid mass melting, thermally degrading something or combusting large amounts of mass in a controlled field. It’s still a very unknown area to us.

Like, on Space Station, they have a combustion integration rack, where they do fire experiments and flammability studies, but they’re on such a small scale, so the stuff that we’re doing, even though I said it was small scale, it’s still such a phenomena for so many scientists out there of combustion and how things burn or melt in a large scale in micro-gravity, so hopefully we can unlock some significant science for micro-gravity.

Jake Hochstadt: I remember when we were up in Glenn doing our two-second tower, we showed one of the videos of our first combustion in our reactor.

We showed it to one of the doctors that had been working up there for — what?

— 20 years on combustion.

And his face lit up so — like, he was so surprised how bright and how big our combustion was, even though, like Anne says, it’s the size of a shoebox, but still, it’s a bigger scale than I think he was used to.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, you mentioned Glenn, that being the Glenn Research Center. It’s one of the NASA centers up there in Ohio. And so, tell me about that trip. I know that you guys recently went up.

Jake Hochstadt: Very cold.

Joshua Santora (Host): For us here in Florida, yes, it’s chilly up there in Ohio. So tell me about that trip. You mentioned a two-second drop tower test. Is that what you went for?

Dr. Anne Meier:Yes. So, I was so grateful because the team is so amazing. We had a minivan full of our gear and hardware, and two team members drove it all up and drove it back in the frigid cold. We got there. We were working pretty long hours.

5:00 a.m. is when the first wave of testing would happen, and we got everything set up with our payload to put everything into this chamber that was then raised about eight stories, and then you basically drop it in free fall.

Man: System is armed.

Woman: 3, 2, 1.

Dr. Anne Meier:And then get your micro-gravity data, which is a whopping 2.2 seconds, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but you can get a lot of information from 2 seconds if you slow it down.

Joshua Santora (Host): Why do you need to drop things at all? Like, why is that important?

Jake Hochstadt: So, we need to simulate the micro-gravity environment.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, quantity or qualify micro-gravity for me and for our listeners. What does that mean exactly?

Jake Hochstadt: I don’t know how to answer that.

[ Laughter ]

Dr. Anne Meier: So, here, on the ground, you are experiencing gravity. Everything is pushing you down. When you drop something in free fall, you’re able to simulate all of those forces acting on those bodies.

They’re just gone. They’re just negated, so things can float. Fluid and objects just behave and mix differently, and even heat transfer — the way things heat up.

It just behaves so different when you don’t have forces acting down on you, and that is exactly how things are in space.

So, on the Space Station, they’re in micro-gravity, and then if you’re on a planetary body, you’re in some type of reduced-gravity environment.

So that’s why it’s important to do these tests in a simulated micro-gravity environment so we can learn, because our payload, for example, is too dangerous right now to put right on Space Station with a crew around it.

It’s too hot, there’s pressure, there’s a lot of oxygen, and all of that is a perfect situation for danger if you don’t know what you’re doing, so that’s why we’re trying to slowly learn by going through these incremental tests.

Joshua Santora (Host): Two seconds. What can you really learn in two seconds? What was the goal and how did it go?

Jake Hochstadt: So, I think we learned a lot in two seconds. Two seconds may not sound like a lot, but a lot happens in two seconds, especially with our system because you have to inject the trash, you’re controlling valves, you’re reading pressures, and there’s a lot that can happen in two seconds, and you’re recording at high-speed video, so when you inject the trash, two seconds at high-speed video is a lot longer, and you can see how the trash is mixing with the oxygen and you can see how the flame propagates inside the reactor.

Joshua Santora (Host): What’s the coming year look like? Annie mentioned it’s a two-year project. You’re halfway through. So what are the goals for this year?

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, so Jake kind of mentioned it earlier. For year two, we are hoping to continue on with our micro-gravity experiments with longer durations of time.

So, we did the two seconds. Now we’re going to move on to the five seconds, and then we’re hoping to move on to the suborbital flight of several minutes.

So, obviously we want hours and hours of micro-gravity, but we’re gonna do what we can to show incremental demonstration. And so, it’s pretty busy. We are already planning to go back to Glenn, to their zero-gravity facility for the five-second testing in late February, early March.

It’s pretty fast. And then to potentially be on a commercial partner vehicle, demonstrating several minutes by the end of the calendar year is also a lot, especially with the hazards of our payload.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, is there a product that is the goal of this, of OSCAR, or is it just gathering data and furthering the process?

Dr. Anne Meier:I’d say it is providing educational data so that we can do a proper redesign for flight hardware that will be put into space and be used by a crew.

So without doing these tests, we won’t really know how to properly design a reactor for micro-gravity, so we have to do these tests to understand so we don’t mess it up.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, you talk about this getting into the hands of astronauts, which has got to be pretty exciting.

Jake, have you processed, like, what you’re doing and what this means for the future of our astronauts and humanity as we grow beyond Earth?

Jake Hochstadt: It’s really hard to process. I think it really hit is when one of the astronauts came and visited our lab and was looking at the work that we were doing, and he was, like, inspired, like, “Oh, man, this is awesome, the work that you’re doing.” So real-life astronauts looking at the work we’re doing and was so proud of us.

That was an awesome feeling, and, no, it still hasn’t really hit me yet, but that definitely struck a chord.

Joshua Santora (Host): So, how does that look on a six-month or more mission to Mars? That’s how long, with current technology, the flight will take. So, how does this system — obviously we’re not there yet. We don’t have it in our hands, but what’s the vision for how an astronaut would actually use this system?

Dr. Anne Meier:So, that transport vehicle to get astronauts to Mars, depending on what it looks like and how big it is, our waste converter would have to be as small as possible, stay out of the crew’s way, have as little crew interaction time, but it would probably be around 100 kilograms, use less than a kilowatt of power, and be about 200 liters in size. So, I would say a dorm-size refrigerator.

Jake Hochstadt: So, there’s always been that balance between how much power you need to preheat the system to eventually start creating that reaction that will eventually produce heat and then be exothermic.

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, people don’t think about it, but there’s so much integration that goes on, on a spacecraft, so that you can use energy from other parts of other pieces of hardware so that you can save on how much you need.

So it’s almost like a spacecraft has to be as efficient as a human body. When the human body starts overheating, you start sweating. That’s just a natural phenomenon that your body does. Instead of, “Oh, I’m sweating. Pour cold water on me immediately or my body will shut down.” Now, there are extreme cases of heat exhaustion and things like that, but for the most part, there would have to be what we call thermal management or systems engineering where everything is talking to each other and the vessels of the spacecraft are transferring heat from one spot or cold from another spot, and it’s all gonna help all of the parts on there.

So, yeah, you can spit out a number for one little, you know, for our specific payload right now, but when things actually get integrated and designed, you can be pulling cooling power or heating power from other things that are rejecting heat or giving off heat, and it really helps your power efficiency in the long run.

So I’m hesitant to give you a final power number for the future, but it’ll be as little as possible.

Joshua Santora (Host): Sure.

Dr. Anne Meier:But the trash will have to eventually get chopped up somehow and then put into the reactor to be the most efficient process, but it’ll most likely be this little box that’s out of your way that you don’t want to smell in the capsule.

Just like at home, you know, your trash can is there.

It’s got to be in the middle of your kitchen, but you don’t really want it in your face, so you want to get this nice, little, slick-looking box that you can use when you need and then get it out of your way when you’re not using it, so that’s probably what it would look like on a spacecraft.

You know, out of the way, latched to a wall somewhere, not in plain view, and just use it when you got to use it.

So, what would that look like? Well, we don’t want the crew to spend a whole lot of time on waste conversion because they have other important things they need to be doing, like science or taking really cool pictures to send back to Earth so we can see what they’re doing.

But the crew would still have to somehow either feed the waste into the reactor, unless we get this really awesome response back from our challenge to help us design a good feed-waste mechanism. Can I talk about that?

Joshua Santora (Host): I was going to ask you about that. So, please do, yeah. There’s a couple of challenges going on. So thanks for bringing that up, Doctor.

I’d love for you to chat about things that are ongoing for the public to get involved with.

Dr. Anne Meier:Yeah, so, right now, we have this public challenge called Recycling in Space, and we’re actually requesting help from the entire world.

You can give us your ideas for waste receptacles, like how will an astronaut put something into a waste receptacle, then also design the waste-feed mechanism that will carry the waste from the receptacle into our hot reactor.

And so, we had a webinar answering questions from the audience, which is available online.

Joshua Santora (Host): Just go to the interweb and search “Recycling in Space Challenge” to find out how you can participate.

Dr. Anne Meier:So we’re really excited because people are just coming out of the woodwork for this. And then, yeah, so it’s gonna take a worldwide effort to go into deep space, and so something as little as converting trash, we’re gonna need ideas from all over the globe, so I’m pretty excited about the challenge, pretty excited about seeing who the winners are gonna be, and they have money prizes.

[ Cash register dings ] So it’s not just…

Joshua Santora (Host): For fun.

Dr. Anne Meier:For fun, yeah.

You can win some money, so definitely check that out.

Joshua Santora (Host):The deadline is January 16.

Joshua Santora (Host): All right. Well, thank you very much. Again, I’m here with Dr. Anne Meier and Jake Hochstadt. Appreciate you both very much.

Good luck this coming year, and hopefully we’ll catch up with you again and hear about your progress on year two.

Jake Hochstadt: Thanks for having us.

Dr. Anne Meier: Yeah, thank you.

Joshua Santora (Host): I’m Joshua Santora, and that’s our show. But before you go, we’re going to try something new here. We would like to hear from you, our listeners. Do you have a question about space exploration? Tweet us your question @nasakennedy using the hashtag #askNASA and we’ll plan to answer a listener’s question at the end of the next episode.

Also, please be sure to subscribe to the Rocket Ranch so you never miss an episode, and tell your friends!

Thanks for stoppin’ by the Rocket Ranch. And special thanks to our guests Dr. Anne Meier and Jake Hochstadt. To learn more about all the cool research going on at Kennedy, go to and click “Research and Technology.”

I’ll close with a shout-out to our producer, John Sackman, soundman Lorne Mathre, editor Michelle Stone, and our production manager, Amanda Griffin. And remember: on the rocket ranch… even the sky isn’t the limit.