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Kennedy Space Center

ISS: A Home in Microgravity

Spin Offs at KSC

May 1, 2002

John Rau and guest, Joe Delai on screen

John: Good afternoon from Kennedy Space Center and welcome to a Webcast series, the International Space Station, a Home in Microgravity. My name is John Rau and I’m going to be your host for the next hour.

Today’s topic entitled, KSC Spin Offs, will be a discussion on how NASA Research has directly and indirectly impacted life here on Earth in the areas of life science, medical research and computer technology.

Close up shot of John Rau on screen

Joe Delai, our guest for today, will be happy to talk about our topic, however, I’d like to introduce Joe in one second. And I’d like to actually go through our objectives page at this time.

Screen shows slide title, Objectives

To start things off, we will have an overview about the size and location of the ISS, followed by research that has been performed on station. After this short overview, Joe will talk about KSC spin offs and how the Earth has benefited from NASA technology. And finally, closing the discussion portion of the Webcast, Joe will talk about the last mission and what his role was.

Back to John and Joe on screen

At this time, I would like to introduce our guest for today. His name is Joe Delai and he works for the Kennedy Space Center as an aerospace engineer. He is currently working on the Truss segments for the International Space Station. Joe, could you tell our viewers who you are and what you do for Kennedy Space Center?

Joe: You bet, John. Thanks. Well, as John mentioned, I’m an aerospace engineer by degree. I actually went to school here in Florida. I went to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University out in Daytona Beach, Florida, and also went to the University of Central Florida.

I came to work for NASA in 1989 and I’m working basically as a mechanical and aerospace engineer. My primary job was payloads integration. Basically we would help design, we would integrate, build, test, train the crew, pretty much anything that had to do with experiments or payloads that went into orbit back in the old space lab days and to include Space Station.

Screen shows background slide picture of the International Space Station

John: Okay. Let’s start with this picture behind us here. This is a picture of the International Space Station. How big is it actually? How big is the Space Station to start it off?

Joe: That’s a good question. The International Space Station is a fantastic project that this world has kind of, we’ve kind of come together. We have 13 nations, actually I think we’re up to 17 nations now that we’ve all gotten together. We’ve put aside our political differences.

Screen shows close up shot of the International Space Station

And all these countries have gotten together to share science to make life better for us on Earth. We’ve put aside our political differences, to share science and make life better for us on Earth, but the Space Station is going to be an orbiting research facility.

Screen shows close-up shot of Joe

There’s things that you can do in space that we can’t do on Earth because of gravity and there’s things that we can do in space better than we can do on Earth because of gravity. And hopefully in the next 15 or 20 minutes, I’ll share some examples with you.

But this big research and development facility that the whole world, John, has really gotten together to build, is going to be a science platform to do all the different types of research in space to make life better for us on Earth. And when this thing is done, it’s going to be about 360 x 300 feet. It’s going to weigh a little over a million pounds, and right now we have three people living on there. And we hope in the future to have about seven people living on there.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: What types of research are going on aboard the Station right now?

Joe: That is a very good question and the list is really endless of the types of research that we can perform on Space Station. Biology, life science, computer, medical, pharmaceutical. The list is really endless. There’s a whole host of events and activities that we can perform on the Space Station to make life better for us on Earth.

John: Why would we research in space to begin with? What are the reasons?

Screen shows close-up shot of Joe

Joe: Well, what it comes down to is you have Space Station, it’s floating around the Earth. It’s going about 25 times the speed of light, which is mach 25 and it’s really a low Earth program vehicle, it’s about 250 nautical miles straight up. But because they’re going around so fast, it’s almost like a constant free-fall. So we say Zero G but it’s really what we call microgravity.

And for this discussion, we’ll just say Zero G. But basically there’s things, and we’ll go through this a little later on in the pics. If we can eliminate gravity, if we can do away with gravity, there’s just a lot more different types of research that we can do. We can get into DNA and RNA, we can get into cell structures. There’s just so much more that we can do if we can eliminate gravity. And that’s really the purpose of Space Station is to have this huge humongous research and development facility really made by the people of this Earth for the people of Earth.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: How can research in space help us, exactly on Earth? Are there other particular ways like, for instance, we have our first slide is actually on protein crystals.

John: So, how can that benefit us here on Earth?

Screen shows slide title, Medical Protein Crystals

Joe: Oh, good question. Good question. We’ve been actually flying protein crystals in space for a very, very long time. And the testing and growth of highly ordered protein crystals on the Space Station will benefit structural biology research and in turn lead to a potential development of new pharmaceutical medicines and aids in cancer research.

Basically, what they do is, we can grow these crystals in space. And because there’s no gravity, we can grow them a lot better than we can on Earth and we can grow them a lot faster than we can on Earth.

Back to John and Joe on screen

So I can, here on Earth if I was to grow a crystal, I can probably only get about 60% perfection. In space, I can probably get 90% perfection. Here on Earth it may take me a year, a year and a half to grow it, where in space I can grow it in two or three months.

So I get a better crystal and I shorten my time. Now what they do is they grow the crystal and they study the grain structure of the crystal. And that kind of leads them into like pharmaceutical research, that kind of leads the scientist into, well, what type of compounds, what type of materials do I need to make this new type of medicine, or to do this certain medical research And all that really starts from the growing and the research from these crystals.

John: So let’s go onto the next slide here.

Screen shows slide title, Medical Advanced Pacemaker

John: And this is a medical advanced pacemaker. Let me get you a different view of that. Okay, explain this pacemaker for us, would you?

Joe: Well, basically in the NASA days, the old and new space days, we have to communicate between Earth and our satellites. We have to communicate between Earth and Space Station. And a lot of these units that are on Space Station or on the satellites are very small but have to work precisely. Kind of self-contained.

Well, a kind of a spin off from that communication program is St. Jude Medical management division has manufactured basically a two-way communication capability that allows the physician or the doctor to instruct and query the pacemaker.

Close-up shot of Joe Delai on screen

So, this is really a self-contained pacemaker and it allows the doctor to communicate with it. But the concept and the size of this actually stemmed from the communication devices that we used in the old days, and use now to communicate with our satellites and our Earth-orbiting vehicles.

John: Is this a fairly safe procedure?

Joe: Oh, definitely, definitely. The whole concept of spin offs is really unique, is really what I call direct and indirect spin offs. Basically, you have NASA and NASA may have a goal, impossible or possible. And our goal may be to build a Space Station or go to Mars. Well, when you perform a task that big, you have requirements, you have certain things you have to meet.

But from meeting those requirements and performing those tasks, spin offs develop. We actually have groups out there, John. One of their main jobs is to take a look at the work we do at NASA and see how that can benefit society. Let me give you an example, like the shuttle.

When the space shuttle came back and it has black tiles on the bottom, and these black tiles actually reflect the heat as the shuttle’s coming back, which is 3000 degrees. In the old days, that didn’t exist. The heat shield in the Apollo capsules actually burned, like a cigarette real slow. So we said, NASA said, "Okay, guys, we’re going to have a shuttle."

But if we have a shuttle, we have material that can reflect 3000 degrees. We didn’t have that 30 years ago. Now in the future, there may be some spin offs and different types of materials and other items that we can use from the technology, from the shuttle. So that’s kind of how spin offs developed.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Okay, great. Let’s go on to the next slide. This particular spin off is called Nomex is that the proper, Nomex?

Joe: Nomex.

John: Nomex, okay. Explain this picture for us, please.

Screen shows picture of truck fire-fighting equipment in the field with a fireman wearing fire and flame-retardant suit made of Nomex

Joe: Basically again, back in what I’m going to call the old space days, NASA wanted to have a space suit that was fire retardant, fire resistant. And NASA worked with a few companies, a few civilian companies and they worked together as a team and developed Nomex, which is kind of a fiber-type material. And it’s fire resistant, it’s flame retardant. And that’s used on all the space suits.

Now, of course, there are other applications. The suits that our military pilots and aviators wear are Nomex suits. The suits that firemen wear are Nomex. There’s laws out there that are kind of in the books right now, at least trying to get passed, to make pajamas for kids, Nomex.

So here’s an example that NASA had a requirement to have a fire-resistant, a fire-retardant space suit. And from there, now Nomex is used everywhere. It’s in the clothes we have, gloves, hats have Nomex fiber.

John: And this is a picture of actually out in the field, a fireman.

Joe: Yeah, this is a fireman and the yellow coat he is wearing has Nomex materials.

John: The coat.

Joe: It’s almost, again, that kind of stems from the space suits.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Okay. Now let’s go on to bone research. Exactly, let’s talk a little bit about this, how astronauts would lose bone mass while in space, if they spend a long time. How long can an astronaut stay in space without actually, how long can he stay in space without major effects from bone loss?

Joe: Right, that’s a good question. What we have found out over the years is astronauts are subject to bone deterioration due to microgravity. In other words, bone loss.

Screen shows slide title, Bone Research, shows picture of bones

There’s a whole lot of other things that happen to the astronauts when they’re up there, muscle deterioration, spatial disorientation, basically what I call as you get older type symptoms. Osteoporosis, which is bone loss, muscle deterioration, increase in certain types of blood cells. Decrease in muscle mass. So there’s a whole bunch of items that can happen to you when you’re up in space.

Back to John and Joe on screen

Now, we want to go to Mars, we want to go to these different asteroids, we want to go to these different planets and we have to. There’s reasons we want to do it. We’re explorers, there’s fantastic spin offs come from programs like NASA. And who knows, there may be something out there that exists on these planets that doesn’t exist here on Earth, and it could be good for us.

So we know that the astronauts age in space. Everyone’s different, it really depends. And we’re not 100% sure. We’re still doing research on that. We know that you have to eat right, you have to exercise, and that’s one of the objective out of many, one of the objectives on Space Station is to take a look at bone research or osteoporosis and how can we slow down the aging process for the astronauts.

If we want to go to Mars, which is going to take 173 days to get there, you spend a couple of months, 173 days to go back, some of these guys are going to be hurting when they come back. So what we need to do is we need to slow down the aging process.

Now if we can slow down the aging process, if we can slow that down, in other words, bone deterioration, or if we can change it, can you imagine the spin offs that will come in the field of osteoporosis? It’s just amazing.

John: Now, will exercising do this alone or will there be a medication that you would take for this?

Joe: Good question. Back in the old days, the Apollo days and pre-Apollo days, I think the thought was you have to be a superman to go to space. I think what we’re finding out is you have to be healthy, you have to exercise, you have to eat well. But everyone is different. Everyone is different and there’s no common link. Why does he or she get sick? Why does he or she don’t they get sick? How can one astronaut walk off the shuttle and the other one has to be brought off on a stretcher?

We’re still looking at that and that’s some of the research we’re going to be doing on Space Station, so we can do this long-term space flight.

John: Okay, let’s go on to another important topic. It’s called Aerogel?

Joe: Aerogel, yes.

John: All right. Now what positive effects can this have? What positive things can we mention about this?

Joe: Aerogel is an example of something that can be made in space but not on Earth.

Screen shows picture of what an Aerogel looks like

I’m sure we have a lot of kids listening to us right now. Aerogel looks like, almost like a hair gel, kind of a clear-colored hair gel. And if you take a look at that hair gel, there’s a lot of bubbles in it, and imperfections. And that’s what aero gel looks like here if it’s made on Earth. But I can make this in space, we can make this in space and actually reduce the pore size 4000-5000 times than what we can here on Earth.

Back to John and Joe on screen

So basically I can make this in space so it’s almost transparent, bring it back and use it on Earth. I can’t make it here, because it’s not perfectly transparent like it would if we made it in space.

What can this be used for? Oh heck, it can be used for insulation on windows and houses. I guess the list is really endless on what you can use this for, but the first thing that pops into my mind is insulation properties between windows, which currently really doesn’t exist right now.

John: Is it a heavy product or is it very light?

Joe: It’s relatively lightweight. It’s relatively lightweight, yes.

John: I heard of a term, it’s called frozen smoke. Is that what they coined it?

Joe: Yes. Yes.

John: Is that the name?

Joe: Yes.

John: A nickname?

Joe: Kind of like, yeah, a nickname. Yeah.

John: Okay. All right let’s go on to the next spin off. Now this is an interesting picture of actually, it’s a crop-dusting plane and our spin off will be agriculture spraying. Could we go over this a little bit?

Screen shows picture of a test plane going through a flare

Joe: Oh, that is a good picture. I think that’s what an airplane and that’s, what is that vertices coming off the wing? I can’t quite tell.

John: It’s a test that when the plane goes through I think it was a flare. Then it can raise the pattern.

Joe: Okay, yeah.

John: Looks like it but that is a crop-duster plane

Joe: Yeah. Another good spin off is like you said, agricultural spraying. And NASA-Langley Research Center has been doing aircraft research for many, many years. And a kind of a spin off from some of their aircraft research is what they call an AGDISP, or an A-G-D-I-S-P. It’s a computer code written for Langley when they would perform the aircraft research. And this computer code can aid the crop dusting airplanes in targeting certain pesticides.

Back to John and Joe on screen

And the code is actually commercially available and can be run on a personal computer, a PC.

John: These days.

Joe: So it really helps aid in targeting certain pesticides.

John: All right, let’s move on here. The next spin off would be farmland, titled farmland survey. Exactly how will that benefit us?

Joe: Okay, that’s a good question. Another program that we have in NASA is called the Landsat satellite program. And a spin off from that program was in 1981, the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Screen shows a picture map sho tof a Farmland survey in Florida taken from space

The USDA did a study and it estimated that this nation is converting farmland to non-agricultural use at the rate of 3 million acres a year.

Well, the state of Florida heard that and they said, "Oh boy, we need to look into this." So in 1984, they directed establishment of a program for development of accurate data to enable intelligent legislation of state growth management. So basically we took a spin off in the Lance Sat program and the spin off was remote sensing. We could take all sorts of pictures from space.

John: And that’s an actual picture from space?

Joe: Right. There you go, exactly. We can take pictures from space and we can send certain things from space. And basically, we took pictures and sensors to monitor what we were doing with the land in Florida. And that’s an example of something that was used, developed for space, that’s used to help us here on Earth.

Close up shot on Joe on screen

John: Is that more of an efficient process than actual ground surveying?

Joe: Oh, definitely. If you take a look, we had a program called SRL, Space Radar Laboratory and even back when I used to fly. And even back in the ‘80s, the navigational charts we had were all from the ‘50s and ‘60s. We really haven’t even mapped the surface since then. And we flew SRL and a mission after that and we basically mapped almost the entire Earth, to update all these airplane charts that are out there.

So again, here’s an example of something that we can do from space by a space vehicle, that will benefit us on Earth, and do it in days vs. years, and be a lot more accurate. You bet.

John: Okay. Actually one of the questions, let’s go to the chat room here real quick. There is a question about Nomex from Tim.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Where else is Nomex used except by firemen?

Joe: Well, yeah, as you said firemen, Tim, that’s a good point. It’s used all, most military aviators. If you see anybody with a green flight suit on, that’s Nomex material. It’s used in pajamas, a lot of the kids clothes are Nomex, the bedding on beds have Nomex in it. Basically, any type of material that is hard to catch on fire is Nomex.

And I know that there’s groups out there that are pushing to have this almost mandatory in kids clothes who are under a certain age. And it’s really pot holders, things in the kitchen are made out of Nomex.

John: A wide variety of things.

Joe: Oh, you bet. Yeah.

John: Okay. Actually going back to the pacemaker, I missed a couple of these questions. Can you explain more about the pacemaker? A little more information on that?

Joe: Well yeah, the pacemaker, let me turn to my pacemaker page here. The pacemaker is actually, and I’ll just kind of generally go over it because I’m not quite sure what she’s asking. But the pacemaker is actually, it’s the unit, the original unit is a communication piece of hardware between us and our satellites.

So if we’re talking to Space Station, or we’re talking to some satellite that’s going around Earth, we have to have a way to communicate with it. And over the years, our communication devices have gotten a lot smaller and a lot faster and they’re more self-contained.

If you remember the old days, the pacemakers always had the two leads coming out of the heart, connected to the battery. Well, through years of flying various vehicles in space, we’ve gotten to a point we can develop these real small fast-working communication devices. Now that can be talking, that can be sensors, it can be turn on thrusters, it can be a wide range of communication devices. And over the years, we’ve gotten it to be so small and so fast that we said, "Hey, there’s definitely going to be some good possibilities for here on Earth." And this is just one example.

Another example would be the communication devices that are used between paramedics and doctors. That did not exist back in the old days.

John: Now, is this one particular satellite this comes off from, do you know?

Joe: I think it’s just-, no, I think John, it’s more of a we’ve flown X amount of satellites and we get better and better and better and better each time. We learn from the previous time and we’ve gotten to a point and we’ll talk again in a few minutes about solar rays. We’ve gotten better and better and better and we’ve gotten to a point where they’re so efficient, that you have everyday commercial applications for this stuff.

John: Okay. Let’s move along to actually it’s the spin off is forest vehicle. Could you talk a little bit about that technology?

Joe: Sure, that was a spin off back in the early ‘80’s and actually the origin was for the Apollo program.

Close up shot of Joe on screen

And the University of California was heavily involved in this. And basically it came from what I call our remote controls, off of various space vehicles and satellites. And then there’s a thing called Power Pac 2. So we have NASA and we have various programs from the Apollo days up to now, and we’ve done a lot of different types of research with remote controls.

We’ve gotten to a certain point and we say, "Hey, there’s other applications besides space. Here’s an application. We’re going to build this thing called the Power Pac 2." And this Power Pac 2 provides an economical means of moving a power source into remote road-less forest areas.

Now I think the picture that we have up is of, John?

Screen shows picture of the Mars Rover

John: Yes. This is actually the Mars Rover, correct?

Joe: There you go. There you go. So that’s kind of what it looks like and this Power Pac 2 can transverse very rough terrain and climb almost 60 degrees or a 60-degree slope and any one of the wheels can move easily over an obstacle larger than itself.

So besides having space applications like you see here, or even military like tanks, we have commercial, civilian applications which is we have a way to get some remote vehicle out into no-mans nowhere land, no-mans land out in the forest to provide us information, whether it’s forest fires or tracking or pictures. You bet.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Okay. All right. Moving along here, we’ve got the next spin off is solar electricity. This is a picture of the ISS in its earlier days.

Joe: Right toward the beginning, you bet.

John: Okay. And you can see the solar panels stretching out. Now let’s talk a little bit about this technology and how we can use it on Earth.

Joe: Okay. You bet. Boy, I could probably spend an hour just on this, but I won’t.

Screen shows picture of solar panels stretched out

Solar arrays are basically, I consider them inefficient ways of producing energy. But through the space program, we have made them efficient to a certain point. Most houses, if they have a pool, they’ll have solar rays up there to heat the pool. So you notice it takes like four or five big arrays to heat a swimming pool.

So solar energy, it’s a way to produce power and electricity from space. It’s very clean, but it’s not the most efficient way of producing energy.

Back to John and Joe on screen

Otherwise, all our cities would have solar power plants, and we don’t. But again, through the space program, we’ve gotten, I think personally, we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve made this somewhat efficient.

Close up shot of Joe on screen

And now you see it, you see solar panels that are located in isolated villages, medical clinics, school crosswalk signs. We use it for corrosion protection for pipelines and bridges. We use it to power railroad signals, air-sea navigation. And many different types of military use.

So when the space program first began, we had this very inefficient way to produce energy and produce power on our space vehicles. But now we’re pretty efficient with it and as, you had the picture up just a few minutes ago, basically the primary way of producing power and electricity on Space Station is, of course, solar panels.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Now solar power, excuse me, it’s a pretty old technology, or it’s been around for a long time, but it hasn’t been effective or efficient. Right?

Joe: Yeah, it’s been around for a while and it’s that type of energy which you can only get to a certain point. And I think we’ve about gotten there with that. But the space program did that, that’s why we can have solar panels. Those solar panels you see are paper thin and each side is about 126 feet long. That’s each side. And it is just unbelievable. And again, back in the old days, you didn’t have ways to efficiently produce power. Now I think we do.

John: Okay, let’s move along to the next slide here Joe. All right. Now, this is called chemical composition. Actually, it’s plant research. Let’s talk a little bit about this. Let’s pull the slide up for you.

Screen shows picture of a Plant Research facility on growing plants in a soil-less environment called Hydronics

Now this is a picture of actually, cells chambers? Okay, why would you want to grow plants in space, for instance?

Joe: Yeah, this picture I think, John, is a picture of what we do here at the cape, where we’re doing research on growing plants in a soil-less environment, which is called hydroponics, and that’s our cells chamber. A cells chamber which is part of our cells program here at NASA, Kennedy Space Center. And basically, to make a long story short, hydroponics is when you can grow plants with no soil. And that can be used for food in space and to develop oxygen.

John: Okay. It was my fault, but this next slide, is actually the chemical composition slide. And the one we just talked about is the plant research spin off. My apologies.

Joe: Oh, no, no, they’re about the same anyway.

John: Yes they are.

Screen shows picture of potatoes growing from tubs

Joe: Those look like potatoes.

John: Now, this is actually like potatoes, an experiment with potatoes. And they go through a sensor to determine its nutrient content, is that correct?

Joe: Yeah, basically kind of funny you mention that. Back when I was in college, my college worked with NASA and to try to build a robotic arm to monitor all these sensors to monitor these plants. But basically, NASA wanted to install different types of sensors to take care and monitor these plants. Again, a spin off that has come from this is a sensor with certain software that can use to determine the nutrient level or analyze the plant nutrient solutions. And this can be applied in agricultural products, beverages, and food.

John: Now how would this help with the long-duration space missions to Mars? Could you talk about that?

Joe: Yeah, I think, well, besides it provides food for the astronauts. And also produces, of course plants produce oxygen and they take in our carbon dioxide and they produce oxygen for us to breathe. And that’s a definite benefit for long-term space flights. So you can go to these outer planets and still survive.

And here on Earth, we may get to a point where you may have a certain area of a state or certain town where the soil’s been contaminated and you may need to have what we call a dome or something, hydroponically grow plants.

John: Okay. Moving along here to the next slide.

Screen shows picture of a 747 carrying a shuttle on its back

John: And it is composite material, that’s the name of the spin off. This is actually a picture of a 747 with carrying back the shuttle. Now, are we talking about some type of material that would be light but very strong, like a metal for instance?

Joe: Oh, you bet. One of the primary objectives in the space program, all the way from day one to now, and in the future is to develop a light-weight strong material. It takes a lot of energy to get a vehicle from here out of our Earth’s environment, get it through being pulled from gravity, and the stronger the material and the lighter it is, the less it’s going to cost us.

And since day one, NASA has done so much work on lighter yet stronger materials. And again, there’s been so many different types of polymers or plastics or lightweight strong material that’s been developed. So a composite really is it’s really lighter and stronger than metals. And a thing called aramid fibers is, it’s like a Kevlar or a Nomex, were developed by DuPont Corporation in conjunction with NASA and is used on airplanes.

Back to John and Joe on screen

And it can be used on many aerodynamic shapes and it can eliminate bolts and screws and grippers and fasteners.

John: Actually, are there other applications in using this composite?

Joe: Oh, it’s used on race cars. It’s used on airplanes on boats, for instance. It’s used everywhere.

John: So pretty much we’ve gone away from the old ways and now we’re doing with a lighter weight?

Joe: You bet. Actually stronger. It’s lighter weight but stronger. And I think that’s been one of the major contributions of NASA to our society is composite materials.

John: All right, let’s move along to this next spin off. Invisible braces. Actually, it’s NASA’s Advanced Ceramic Research.

Joe: Right.

John: Explain this technology for us.

Screen shows picture of a person's mouth wearing the invisible braces

Joe: Yeah, and that’s kind of along the same field in ceramic or material research, is when NASA goes through these different programs, they’re looking for different types of applications. And in the NASA Advanced Ceramic Research Program, one of the spin offs that came from there was it was invisible braces. Basically it’s a translucent, it’s a polycrystalline alumina, which is TPA material, which again came from the NASA Advanced Ceramics Research Program.

And they’re designed basically for each tooth and they’re connected by a thin metal wire and it’s very strong. It’s appealing and it’s very effective, too.

John: More appealing than the old metal?

Back to John and Joe on screen

Joe: Oh yeah, the old metal ones. Yeah, even the plastic ones they have now. The braces that we have these days, which the kids have a little piece of metal/plastic that is really put on the front of their tooth, that material is actually a derivative of the tiles that we have on the shuttle.

John: Really?

Joe: Yeah. So all sorts of applications.

John: Okay, let’s move along to our next one and actually this is our last spin off for this afternoon. And it’s on space imaging in medicine. And it’s on Landsat Earth Resources Satellite. Could you talk about that a little bit and how it benefits us?

Joe: Oh sure. And again, this is a spin off that has come from our off satellite program, is optical decoding. NASA has to have a way to take pictures of certain things, whether we take pictures of the Earth.

Screen shows picture of machine that takes pictures used by KSC

Or we take pictures in space or we take pictures for inspection of a shuttle, or inspection of our vehicles, to make sure there’s no corrosion and can’t take pictures of places, in areas we can’t get to. Again, a derivative from this would be a machine that you could take a picture of the human body and maybe block out the bones. Let’s take a look at the tissue, let’s take a look at certain organs of the body. Let’s filter out what we don’t use. These filters are actually those that are employed by the Land Sat Earth Resource satellite. And those filters that when they take a picture of Earth, they only want to see certain things, whether it’s a heat source or a cold source, or to water or there’s no water, those types of filters, again a derivative of that would be the filter that we can use on these various medical machines we have these days whether it’s CAT scan or MRI, to take pictures of the human body and just look at what you want to see.

Close-up shot of Joe on screen

CAT scans and MRIs and the devices we have these days did not exist 20-30 years ago. And a lot of that does exist because of programs like Land Sat, where we can take a look at the different types of filters they use and come up with derivatives that will apply to us here on Earth.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Okay. Thanks, Joe. Let’s move along to another topic here actually. Joe, could you tell us about the future of the International Space Station?

Screen shows slide titled, Who knows what the future holds, with 4 different kinds of planets

Joe: Oh, you bet. You bet. The International Space Station of course we’re up there building it right now. And in summary, this is a great country we live in, John. And we always have a goal. This country always has goals. And we achieve those goals, whether it’s going to the Moon, or building a Space Station or going to Mars, we have to have a goal. It’s good for science, we spent the last 45 minutes talking about various spin offs that have come from programs like NASA and it’s good for our children.

Kids need a goal, we need a goal, and we’re really pioneers. We need to explore the unknown, that’s just the way we are. And we have to do that. And I think the Space Station is really the first step into going into space. I think we are just a small piece of what’s out there, and we need to find out what’s out there. We need to go explore and see how it can benefit us and really benefit everybody.

Close up shot of Joe on screen

And I really think until we leave this planet, it’s going to be hard for us to be a whole, all of us to be together as one on this planet until we go out there and start doing the things in space.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Thanks, Joe. All right, before we go into the chat room, let’s talk about the last mission. And then we’ll go in just real briefly here.

Screen shows picture of aTruss on Space Station

John: Okay, this is a picture of our last mission actually, your objective was this truss, correct?

Joe: Yeah, that’s the S0 truss, that’s really what I call the center of the main truss on Space Station. Space Station has modules and a module is basically where you live and where you work and those are like the round cans that are up there. But we have to have truss segments to hold the solar panels and hold the radiators.

And there’ll be a whole bunch of trusses up on Space Station. This particular truss is the center of the whole truss segment that’s going to be up there. A few minutes ago we showed a picture of Space Station with the solar panels. Well, the solar panels are held on with trusses, and this is a picture of a truss.

Now this truss acts as a junction from which we take the external utilities, we take the power, we take the electricity developed by the solar panels.

Close-up shot of Joe on screen

And we use this as a junction to get that, to get those different utilities into the pressurized modules where the astronauts will be living.

Also on the bottom of the truss, we have an MT called the mobile transporter, and will be a robotic arm that is attached to the bottom of the truss that moves up and down along space station and it helps us in moving different components around. This thing alone weighed about 23,700 pounds and was about 43 feet long. So this is really the first out of a few trusses we’re going to have up there.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Okay, great. Let’s move into the chat room at this time. And our first question is, what is the most important research to be done on the ISS? All those ones you talked about.

Joe: That’s a good question. John, I think, let’s see that’s from?

John: Actually, it doesn’t have a name.

Joe: Is that an unknown person?

John: Yes.

Close-up shot of Joe on screen

Joe: We’ll say Mr. or Mrs. Unknown. I think they’re all important. Because we are really just starting. If you watch Star Trek or watch any of those futuristic shows, we’re in kindergarten, we’re in first grade. We’re not even out of elementary school yet when it comes to space, and we are learning.

And if we’re ever going to achieve to that point, there’s all sorts of things we’re going to have to do. I think they’re all important. I think the medical is important, I think the computer research is important, I think the biology is important. I think they’re all important because each one has different applications for a wide variety of different events. Some people like medical, some people like computers. I guess it just depends.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Okay, one from Nancy. When will the ISS be finished? Do you have a date in mind?

Joe: We’re hoping around 2005 or so we’ll have the International Space Station complete. And we’ll have a crew up there. We have a crew full time that’s rotating now and we’ll have a crew up there. Hopefully we’ll have, well, right now I think it’s three people. And when it’s done we’ll see how it goes and what happens and we’ll either stick with three or have a few more up there.

Hopefully around 2005, 2006, we’ll have Space Station complete, but Space Station is up there right now. It’s 30-something percent complete and it’s functional. And so it’s like a bit Tinker Toy set, we’ll build a house. We have a small house now, we’re going to make it bigger and bigger and better functional. That’s kind of what we’re doing now. So we have people up there now, we’re doing research, we’re doing all the science, but the whole thing should be done around that time frame.

Close-up shot of John on screen

John: Okay, the next question here. When NASA does some of this research and inventing, are they already thinking of how it might be used in other ways?

Back to John and Joe on screen

Joe: Without a doubt. Everybody thinks that. But we actually have folks out there. Their job is to take a look at the different types of activities, different events that we have here at NASA and other commercial, other civilian applications. So we have people, that’s their full-time job. And it’s working very, very well.

John: A question from Amy from the 8th grade. Why does testing bones in space help us know about bones in gravity?

Joe: That’s a good question, Amy. I think as we spend more time in space and as we travel in space, we’re going to have to slow down this "aging process". And I think if we can do that, that that in turn will benefit some of the problems we have here on Earth called getting old, or called osteoporosis. So if we can slow down some of these events, for space travel, in turn we’re going to slow down some of these events here on Earth. So that was a very good question

John: Another question here. Will there ever be artificial gravity on the ISS?

Joe: Yeah, there’ll be a small little disc on top of Space Station and the name has slipped my mind all of a sudden. I can’t believe this. But we’ll have a small disc up on Space Station about 4-6 feet in diameter and this disc will be rotating and we will artificially produce gravity.

Close up shot of Joe on screen

And the reason we’re going to have that up there, centrifuge, it’s called a centrifuge. And this centrifuge will be turning and the reason we’re going to have that is when we’re performing this research in space, we would like to, and it depends on the types of research and what the objectives are, but there are times that we would want to perform this experiment in parallel or at the same time in a gravity environment so we can compare results.

So we’ll have this little centrifuge up there and the crew can do it in the modules in the microgravity environment, and they can also do it in the centrifuge in a gravity environment with fair results.

John: All right Joe, thanks. Okay, was Velcro and plastic a spin off of the space program? Do you know anything about Velcro?

Joe: Yeah, I think everyone thinks when they see the words NASA, they think of Velcro. So but the plastics, yeah. Plastics or polymers, I guess it really depends on what type you’re talking about.

But there are different types of polymers and different types of polycarbonates and there are different types of ceramics that have directly come from NASA or indirectly have come from NASA through some of our contractors, and there are other things out there that have come because people have looked at what we have done and maybe did this a certain different way or a better way. So I think there are some direct, I think there are some indirect and I think there are some just based on what we’ve done in the past.

Back to John and Joe on screen

John: Okay, let’s go back to the protein crystals spin off. How does protein crystal growth have anything to do with cancer?

Joe: Well, I’m not a medical doctor by any means, but what I do know is when they grow these crystals in space, they can take a look at the structure of the crystal. And by studying the structure of the crystal, that leads them into what types of research they can do and they can’t do, at least in other types of medicine they can and can’t use or all the material that they will need to perform this research, or perform this medicine.

So it’s kind of the foundation or a starting block to doing different types of cancer or mainly pharmaceutical research.

John: What new things are they working on currently? I guess they’re talking about NASA.

Joe: Well, NASA’s kind of twofold, we have two, As in NASA and one of the A’s of course is aviation. NASA, of course, is working on the Space Station, we’ve got a group of folks working on maybe a futuristic shuttle. We have folks working on making our airplanes safer. We have folks working on these different types of spin offs, whether it’s medical or computer. We have folks working on different types of engines.

So NASA is kind of a, we do more than just go to space. We work with aviation, we work with various companies. NASA really does, I think a little bit of everything.

John: Wel,l it’s wise to do that. I mean for research purposes.

Joe: Yeah, NASA, and that’s a good question, NASA is a federal agency. And just like the military is paid to defend this country and protect us, I believe NASA is paid to make life better for us on Earth. So our job at NASA is to, we have a goal like our goal is to build Space Station. Well, we’re doing that. But because we’re a federal agency, we also have an obligation to the people. And one of those obligations, besides having a successful program is to take a look at benefits that can come from this program. And that’s why spin offs and space research is so important, because it helps us in the long run.

Let me say one thing and it kind of ties a lot of this together, John. NASA is a long-term program. If I have a program called Apollo and I want to go to the Moon, it doesn’t happen in a week. It takes years. And a lot of times in society, when it comes to these different types of spin offs, we’ve spent 40 minutes going through spin offs, and a lot of them were from the early ‘80s.

These spin offs don’t happen overnight. It takes time. You have a program, you have to research it, you have to plan it, you have to do the program, you have to complete the program and then you have to take a look at spin offs and benefits. So this is, a lot of the stuff that we do doesn’t happen over night. A lot of the stuff we do may not happen for 10, 15 years from now.

John: Like Mars, for instance.

Joe: Like Mars. We’ve got people in training for it now, but I don’t know what’s going to happen 10, 15, 20 years from now. But, everything we do is kind of a long-term effect. Mainly the space stuff. And I think if we all step back and just said, okay, the benefits that you and I are reaping right now, a lot of that work was done from the ‘60s and ‘70s and early ‘80s. And we’re benefiting from this and our kids are benefiting from it.

Well, when my kids have kids, and their kids have kids, I want them to benefit from the space program. But the only way they’re going to benefit is by doing the program now. Because a lot of the stuff we’re doing is long-term. And I think if people stopped and didn’t have that foresight back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, you and I wouldn’t have a lot of the stuff that we do have today.

John: That’s very important. Okay, our next question is, would animals be placed in the centrifuge you talked about?

Joe: Oh, I don’t think so.

John: No?

Joe: I can put my dog up there and see if he can run, but I don’t think he’ll do that.

John: Have there been any drugs developed in space for use on Earth?

Joe: A lot of the protein crystal research that we have done, some of the main objectives of that is to provide data to our pharmaceutical companies. And from that data, the pharmaceutical companies have developed a lot of different types of medicines. Somebody asked me that once and I did some research, and if you take a look at the different types of antibiotics and different types of medicines that are available, there was a big increase about 10, 15 years after the Apollo program and beginning of the Space Station program where we’ve been flying these protein crystals.

So I think a lot of the medicine that you and I have now and a lot of the research that’s being done now is a good effect from that, is because of the crystals that we flew in space and the data that we gathered from them really helped us out. I do believe that.

John: Okay. From Missy, from the 10th grade, wants to know what are some of the other technology spin offs from NASA? A particular one besides the ones we covered.

Joe: Yeah, I do have a favorite one.

John: What’s your favorite one?

Joe: One of my favorite one is I call the Moon mobile, or lunar rover. You know the car that’s on the moon?

John: I almost got that picture for you.

Joe: Back in those days when they built the car for the Moon, but I’ll call it the Moon mobile, all those controls are up by the steering wheel. And from that came the concept for putting all the devices on the steering wheel for handicapped cars. A lot of that stuff did not exist before the Moon mobile. And because we had a Moon mobile and we proved it could be done, we enhanced our technology and really our thinking for cars for handicapped people. So that’s kind of one of my favorite ones.

John: Is it?

Joe: Yeah.

John: Okay. Joe, what’s the best part of your job? Do you do experiments?

Close up shot of Joe on screen

Joe: Okay, that’s a good question, best part of my job. I like my job as an engineer because I really feel I’m contributing to society. I think a lot of us could do different things if we wanted to. But we choose to stay here because we know that future generations are going to benefit from what we do. And I think it’s like people in the military, they could probably do a lot of different things in the real world, but they choose to stay there because they’re giving back to society, they’re helping society. There’s a sense of pride there.

I think we at NASA kind of have the same sense of pride. We work here, the hours are long, we work many days here, but it’s a sense of pride that we’re actually doing something for this country. And the second part of that question do I do experiments? Most of the work I do now is mechanical type work on the Space Station, and back in the old Space Lab days, we used to do various types of experiments. And then, of course, we’ll be doing that on Space Station, too. I hope that answered that question. Not too long.

John: No, it was fine. Actually, this will be our last question for this afternoon. We have a special video at the end of today’s Webcast we’d like to show and leave time for that.

Joe: Fantastic.

John: So the question here, are they using any information they have already learned on bone loss here on Earth for old people and other people with bone problems?

Joe: Yeah, I think one example that you and I talked about a few minutes ago was the X-ray or the MRI’s or the CAT scans. That’s kind of a good example of taking pictures in the field of osteoporosis. I’m not quite sure if the person is talking about medicine or mechanical device. I think right now in the field of osteoporosis, I think one of the big factors, one of the big events that we’ve contributed to society would be the different types of X-ray or the different type of scanning machines that we have.

And I really think as we spend time in space and we travel in space and we learn more in space, I think it’s going to help us in the long run. But again, this is isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s definitely going to happen.

And so my kids and their kids really have something to look forward to as long as we keep this program going. You bet.

Close-up shot of John on screen

John: All right. Well, actually I’d like to close the Webcast at this time. And I’d like before we close, I’d like to make a couple of announcements. Be sure and view a Station Update Webcast on May 23rd at 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern. And also tune into the follow-up chat with Joe next week, next Wednesday at the 8th at 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern. Please see our calendar page for any updates. Okay, thank you very much, Joe, for stopping by.

Joe: John, I appreciate it, thank you for having me. I enjoyed it.

John: And taking time out of your busy schedule. I know you’re a busy guy and I appreciate it.

Joe: Not a problem, I enjoyed it and it’s good to see all these kids. You probably have so many questions we didn’t go over, maybe we’ll get them next time.

John: In the chat room you can actually answer.

Joe: That, too, you bet.

John: Okay?

Joe: Wel,l thank you. I enjoyed it, thank you.

John: Sure. I’d also like to thank NASA Quest Fundamental Biology and Kennedy Space Center. Being that this is our last Webcast of the series, I would like to close and send a special thanks to our viewers for participating by showing a short video clip from NASA about how dreams can come true, or how dreams can survive.

Once again, my name is John Rau. Thanks again for watching and have a great day. Take care.

Shows a 5-minute video clip of NASA’s projects


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