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JSC - Space Day - NASA

January 22, 2002

On the screen you see Erika Guillory speaking.

Well welcome everyone to the Johnson Space Center. My name is Erika Guillory. I am excited to be with you here today. We're going to be talking about Design Challenge #1, the Space Day design challenges and it's called Inventor's Wanted.

That's absolutely right. We need you to do some things that we could possibly use when we go for our trip to Mars. We'll be talking about quite a lot today. And we'll be talking about maybe some things that you'll be interested in to know how to complete your design challenges so you'll be ready to get them in by March 1st.

But before we do that - you know I was thinking it might be kind of cool to see what kind of things do we actually need on Mars. For example, wouldn't it be kind of cool if we figured out a way to grow plants on Mars. What do you think?

Martian Farmer speaking on screen.

Have you ever said, "I'd like to grow mushrooms on Mars, but the soil just no good."

Hand pouring box of soil on screen.

Not any more! Now, thanks to Martian farmers, old, rocky, lifeless Martian soil can become a garden paradise!

Martian Farmer speaking on screen.
Picture of Martian Farmer.

"It's amazing!" Martian Farmer adds all the necessary ingredients to grow flowers, plants and even vegetables!

Martian Farmer holding huge tomato on screen.

"I grew this prize-winning tomato, thanks to Martian Farmer."

Picture of heat of the sun.

Martian Farmer has a special ingredient that absorbs the heat of the sun, making permafrost a thing of the past.

Martian Farmer speaking on screen.

"Who knew that you could have a green thumb on such a red planet. Thanks, Martian Farmer."

Picture of the Martian Farmer package.

There's only one planet Mars. And there's only one fertilizer for Martian soil, Martian Farmer. "Martian Farmer!"

Disclaimer printed on the screen.

Martian and Martian habitat not included. Results are not typical, and may vary as sun sets on Mars, and as Mars enters Martian winter.

Erika and Susan Ramsey on screen.

You know that it's kind of funny video, but it's kind of cool because it kind of gets our, you know, our creative juices flowing about what are the types of things that we would actually want to create if we decide to go to Mars. I'd like to welcome you guys back to Johnson Space Center and to Design Challenge #1. And with me today is Susan Ramsey. Hi Susan!

Susan Ramsey on screen.

Hi.

Susan is with us today because she is our subject matter expert that's going to help you guys get on the right track and maybe answer some of your questions about what it is that you need to be a really good inventor.

Erika and Susan on screen.

So before we get started, I'd like you to find out a little bit more about what Susan does. Susan, tell us a little bit about what you do. Now I know for a fact that Susan is an engineer, but there's all kinds of engineers, and you have a really cool job that has something to do with creating things that the astronauts can use to live and work in space. Right?

Susan Ramsey is speaking on screen.

Right. Exactly. Well, my degree is actually in biomedical engineering. But the work that I do now is more human factors engineering. What I do for the space program is design hardware that the astronauts are going to use to live in space. Not so much what they use to work, but what they use to live. So that's the things they use to eat, the things they need to sleep, equipment they need for hygiene - like showering and going to the bathroom. Those are the things we focus on. And here at NASA we call that habitability. We look at habitability in space, and how the astronauts live.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

All Right. Well, you know what? We actually, this is specifically for you to ask your questions, to be able to get your design challenges well on the way to going. So, we're going to go ahead and don't waste any time. We're going to go straight to the chat room and see what kind of questions you guys have. And maybe we can give you some help.

First of all, I want to say hi to Katy and Todd and Evan. Susan, some people are just writing in and just excited about the whole Space Day, because that's, they're saying Space Day is cool, and Space Day is absolutely cool.

Erika is speaking on screen.

And we'll take you to that web site a little bit later on, and show you a little bit more about the types of things that you can find out about Space Day, which happens to be May May 2nd, 2002. So, the first question that has to do with inventions comes in, and it is Miss Mead's' class - science class - and it's from Melissa, and she wants to know is there a way to make water from hydrogen and oxygen on Mars.

Susan is speaking on screen.

Yes, there absolutely is. It's a process that we're looking into now called the Sabatier process. It's something that is one of those technologies that we here at the Johnson Space Center are researching, and we really need to look a little bit deeper into it. But, we're hoping to figure out a way to use this to help astronauts live and survive in the Martian atmosphere.

Erika is speaking on screen.

So, you know, it's interesting because that question is a really good one. And we have to think about exactly what does water do in space. And I bet you that there are a lot of students out there that probably have never seen it. They kind of know what water does in space in microgravity, but they may have never seen it. So, we have some of our little helpers back stage.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

And, very soon we'll hopefully we can get some video of what water does in space, and we'll be able to show you that.

But before we go to that, we'll go ahead and maybe go on to the next question. And this is from Tommy in Florida. And he wants to know what if we are designing something to be used for the astronauts only inside the vehicle. Would we still need to worry about extreme temperatures?

Susan speaking on screen.

Well, Tommy, inside the vehicle the temperature is regulated. That's a very good question. So you don't actually need to worry about temperature inside the vehicle. As long as you're working internally, that's something that we at Johnson Space Center call IVA, or intravehicular activity. You don't have to protect astronauts from external conditions, like temperature or pressure. They can work in what we call shirtsleeve environment - which means, they can work in something similar to what I'm wearing today, or even what you're wearing at school.

Erika speaking on screen.

Okay. Well, for all the students that are just now joining us, we're actually here at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. And I'm with Susan Ramsey, who is your subject matter expert for Design Challenge #1.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

And Design Challenge #1 is actually Inventors Wanted. You are responsible for inventing something that would be really helpful or really cool to use if, and when, we decide that we're going to go to Mars.

Now, there are some things that have to go along with the design challenges. And maybe this would be a good time to go over them. And all of this information can found on the Space Day Web site. And that happens to be spaceday.com. So, hopefully, if you haven't had a chance to really check out all the cool parts of that Web site, we encourage you to do that because they have a lot of helpful hints, and Web sites that can help you finish your projects.

Erika speaking on screen.

One of the things that you have to make sure that your going to do, if your going to be graded on this - or actually, you're going to get certain points. And one of the things that your going to want to make sure of is that you want to focus that your group becomes maybe a stellar award team. And that means that you guys get selected to possibly present your design solution on Space Day, which is May 2nd again.

And so, Susan, some of the things that they're going to be looking at are they have to make sure that they list all the materials that they need to use to create their invention. They want to also find out what research led you to create your design. And they also want you to do a diagram of what your invention looks like.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

So, do you have any suggestions on possibly, what are some of the types of things that you have created so far, your teams of people, to help the astronauts in space?

Susan is speaking on screen.

Well the main things that we focus on in our design effort are how the astronauts live in space. One of the most important things that the astronauts has to do while they're out there is sleep. Sleep is very important while you're on the ground, as you very well know, in order to be productive and happy. And so, we need to be sure that they sleep well in space also. Sleeping in space is not like sleeping on the ground. You're not actually lying in a bed, but you're just floating around. In order for the astronauts not to get too disoriented and wake up and not wonder where they are, we have to restrain them during sleeping times.

We also have to provide ways for them to eat in space. Food floats, much like everything else in space. And you have to find ways to restrain their food and allow them to eat in space.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well, you know, it's interesting because the sleeping, you're right, absolutely where they have to. I think that we had heard, one time, a really great astronaut story. This astronaut had come back from space - and he was a rookie. And so, when he remembers waking up and all of a sudden he saw these arms floating in front of him, but was his arms, and it kind of scared him. So some astronauts now have the tendency to want to keep their arms strapped to them or close to them, so where they won't wake up and not realize all of a sudden that it's their arm floating in front of them. So, that's kind of something interesting to think about. We've got some new questions coming in.

Erika speaking on screen.

All right. Well, Miss Mead's' class, we have another set of students, and this is Albert and Robert. Thank you for your questions, and thanks for joining us today. How much money would it cost per pound to go to Mars? Oh, that's a very good question.

Susan speaking on screen.

Going to Mars could be quite expensive. Space flight, in general, is relatively expensive. Right now on the shuttle, as a rough estimate, it costs about $10,000 per pound to fly things into orbit. That's why one of the most important things when designing for space is weight or mass.

For Mars, we would probably shoot for things to be a little bit less expensive. Maybe as inexpensive as $1,000 a pound. I know that still sounds like a high number, but that's quite an ambitious goal for us to shoot for.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well, thank you very much for your question. Rachel, she is an eighth-grader here in Texas. And what is she, what she's doing is she's researching for this particular project. And so, she wants to know, or she actually says, "I learned about in situ resource utilization," Okay. Uh, in situ, there you go, in situ. Thank you, very much. "in situ resource utilization." And she wants to know is NASA ready to use that on Mars, and can you talk a little bit about it.

Susan is speaking on screen.

Well, that's a very good question. In situ resource utilization is a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to go to Mars and not take everything that we need to with us. I'm sure you've read a lot about it on the Web site. But, basically, this is an opportunity for us to utilize some of the resources we take with us and some of the resources on Mars.

I wouldn't say that today NASA's absolutely ready to go with this technology, but it's very much developing. And I think we'll be absolutely ready to go and feel good about this technology by the time we get ready to go to Mars. It's one of the major things that's going to allow us to go to Mars affordably and in most of our lifetimes.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. Well, we have them this year. And it is adventure to Mars. It's the whole Space Day theme. And a lot of what we're doing right now is with the International Space Station at the Johnson Space Center and at other centers.

Erika speaking on screen.

But one of the things that we look toward is that the research we do on board station, hopefully, will help us to possibly explore space a little bit more in the future.

And one of the things happens to do with the type of food that we're actually sending up to the astronauts. So it kind of leads into the next question. Abby writes in and she wants to know, "How are you going to eat on Mars?"

Susan is speaking on screen.

Well eating on Mars will be quite a challenge. Our astronauts right now, on space station, we fly 100% of the food that they eat. Which means they don't actually grow anything on orbit. Everything is prepackaged and sent up to them.

Right now their diet consists of what we refer to as shelf stable food items. What that means is it's something that doesn't require refrigeration. It can be stored just at regular room temperature. And it stays safe for a very long period of time. And they can heat it up in the ovens that are on orbit.

We hope to have refrigerated food also flown on space station by the time the assembly of the station is complete. This'll be a technology that, like you were referring to, we're using space station to develop to go to Mars. There's a lot more nutritional value in refrigerated food than there is in the shelf stable food. So, we're hoping to develop that.

A third type of food that they'll have to eat on Mars that we're not currently using for space station is food that they grow themselves. Kind of going back to the same theme as the previous question of in situ resource utilization, we can't take 100% of the material that we need to live on Mars with us. Like I said, it could cost between $1,000 and $10,000 a pound to take things with us. So, the astronauts are going to have to grow some of their food on orbit.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

That's right. And I think a lot of it has to do with students need to remember that it has a whole process to it, as a matter of fact, that the human waste product has a lot to do with fertilization, and growing of these plants. And, it kind of goes around with air recycling, and what they provide, humans provide with carbon dioxide and plants from that oxygen, which you guys know. And so all that whole process is really important for our longevity on a planet like Mars.

Absolutely.

Kind of interesting.

Susan speaking on screen.

Absolutely.Our goal will be to go to a closed loop life support system by the time we get to Mars. So where all of the human solid waste will be reused for fertilization; the liquid waste will be recycled into water.

Erika speaking on screen.

All Right. That's a really good question. And, hopefully, you guys are coming up with some interesting inventions to maybe help us along with that. And they have some great information on several NASA Web sites, and some of the Web sites, also the Space Day site to help you answer some of your questions while you're inventing.

Well, Miss Mead's class is right with us today. They've got a lot of great questions coming in. We appreciate that. And, Michelle wants to know what types of materials would be the best to build things with. Since there are dust storms in a thin atmosphere on Mars. Any suggestions?

Susan speaking on screen.

Well materials are very important. You definitely want a material that's not going to erode very quickly, because of all the dust storms on Mars. In addition, you want a material that's fairly light because you are going to have to launch it - probably from the Earth, unless you come up with another launching platform. A lot of material that's currently flown into space is made out of aluminum. Aluminum is a very sturdy material, but it's lightweight, considering how sturdy it is.

Something else you might want to consider is fire protection, especially if you're talking about something inside the vehicle. It's very important that the material you choose be at least somewhat fire resistant and flame resistant because if a flame were to start inside the vehicle, it could be very dangerous and spread very quickly. So that's a major thing that we address now when we look at materials.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well, see, that's a very interesting answer because I think that as the students do their research, they may not find that out.

I think that that's very interesting. I know that I probably never would've thought of that. When you think of things, you think about the environment as far as: what they're breathing, the atmosphere outside the vehicle. But as far as, fire prevention and things like that, you probably would never consider that. So, students watching today, you've got, just a excellent piece of information - maybe to get you started and well on your way to considering what type of materials you use.

Erika speaking on screen.

What types of items would you say have the astronauts requested so far to make living in space a lot easier? And that question is coming from Mrs. Wilson's 4th grade class here in Texas.

Susan speaking on screen.

Well, two of the main things that the astronauts have requested to make living both easier and more fun first has to do with restraints. While you're in space you are in microgravity. On the current space station for your Martian projects that your working on, you'll be in about 3/8th gravity. But humans, just by human nature, are used to living on Earth. And so they're used to doing things with gravity. So, for that reason, restraints are incredibly important to the crew. They are constantly asking us for, certain weights to hold themselves down so that they can perform the tasks they need.

In addition, they seem very interested in making their experience in space a true living experience. They don't want to just be up there as part of the scientific experiment. They want to live their lives while they're up there. So, we've actually had requests recently for things such as musical instruments.

The crew always loves to take personal items, such as books and CD's and pictures. And so that's also always a request. But it will be even more important for a Martian journey than it is for a current space station because of the long duration.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well if you're just now logging on and visiting with us today, my name Erika , and this is Susan Ramsey. Susan Ramsey is our subject matter expert for Design Challenge #1, for Space Day 2002. And Design Challenge #1 is, of course, is Inventors Wanted. And we'd like to say hello to all the students that are participating across the country. We're even getting in students visiting with us in Ohio. And as, of course, we are here at Johnson's Space Center in Texas, so Ohio is pretty far for us, you know. And, as a matter of fact, from Ohio is Jeremy, and he asks this question: "Can the atmosphere of Mars have an impact on the use of batteries and/or your gear?"

Susan speaking on screen.

If you're talking about the gear that's going to be inside the vehicle and any use of batteries inside the vehicle, it shouldn't be a problem, because you're vehicle or your habitat would be pressurized. If you are talking about things that you would use for EVA's - or extravehicular activity, yeah, it is important to consider the atmosphere on Mars. They are in a much lower pressure than we're at, and have a heavy carbon dioxide environment. So, it would be important to consider that whenever you're selecting batteries.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. Uh, Lee writes in and wants to know: "I know that there is less gravity on Mars than there is on Earth and that astronauts' muscles weaken as they spend time there. Would it therefore still be possible for a woman to give birth on Mars?"

That's a very interesting question. Our belief is that, yes, it would be possible for a woman to give birth on Mars. While the muscles do weaken, there also would be somewhat less resistance for the woman because you have less gravity. I mean gravity affects all of your systems all of the time. So we think there would probably be an equal amount of loss of muscle and decrease in resistance. And so it probably would be possible. It's not something we're really close to trying at this point because there could be other risks involved in a pregnancy. But, from a physiological perspective, we think it would be possible.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

You know, that's really interesting. It also brings up the fact that people are always talking about what if that were to happen. Once the child was born in a different type of atmosphere, would that same child be able to survive in a gravity-driven environment like Earth?

You know, it would totally be a different type of environment that child would be born in, so those types of questions come up too.

Right. Right.

Erika speaking on screen.

You know, would the child have the same type of needs that a human on Earth would?

Right.

As far as how their feet were formed, and legs, and their muscles in general, and things like that. All those kind of cool questions come up when you wonder about being born on another planet.

Right.

That was interesting.

Very good question. Mrs. Mead's science class is still sending in some excellent questions. And this is from Christian. Christian wants to know how would a drill differ from those we use on Earth and those that we would use to drill into the crust of Mars.

Susan speaking on screen.

That was a good question. One of the things you would need to consider is, you need a way to power the drill. Power is definitely a commodity when you're in space because you're either going to have to fly the power generators with you or find a way to use the Martian atmosphere or supplies on Mars to generate power. So that's the first consideration you should give to the drill.

Second of all because the gravity is different you'll have a little bit different reaction with the drill. Mechanically, it may mean that your drill works about the same way, but you won't have quite the pull on a drill that you would here on Earth.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Absolutely. As a matter of fact, we did some tests like that here on our KC135. And we try to simulate what it would be like - mainly for microgravity, but other levels of gravity as well. And, um, you know, it's really different. When we use a drill on Earth everyone realizes that we actually can stand in place. But then, if we don't have something to secure us in space while we use a drill, then we'll be turning at the same time the drill is. So, we have some cute things here, some cute things, interesting workable things here that we actually use to help us with that. And one of those things are foot restraint. Now, this is an invention of sorts that was invented particularly for micrographics - been around for a long time. But these were just one of the things. And, since we have some folks that are asking us about drills and other types of hardware that might help people in space - here's a foot restraint. We have a close-up shot I think we're going to be able to go to. Just to explain that to you, it's a metal base bottom, very simple. And it has velcro straps to hold your feet in. We have some video. A friend of ours, Phil West, actually took some time to show us a little bit about what it's like in microgravity when you want to use drills:

Phil West's voice.

"The bulb's not go anywhere. They're just going to spin around the bulb."

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAH! WHOOOOH!"

"Which we found to be sort of fun."

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAH! WHOOOOH!"

"But not very productive. At some point, the astronauts' gotta find some way to hold himself back to the space craft, or they'll just float around."

"Well, the astronaut has to find some way to restrain himself back at the space craft."

"I think of this as my space suit. I can do a light task by holding on with one hand, or heavy work by clipping into a foot restraint, or medium tasks by clicking into a device like that, hooking up to the space craft.

Phil West shown in weightlessness.

and making it rigid. That'll hold me in place while I go off and do medium load tasks."

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. Well, I apologize for that. We have a little bit of trouble with our cameras here in the studio. But, I think the whole big point was just to explain to the students that we're working really hard here on Earth to make sure that the hardware - the things that we come up with here, at NASA - are really viable and really useful for the astronauts in space. And we have different ways of doing that. And thank you very much, Phil, for sharing with us a little bit about the types of things that we have to think about. You know, a little bit different here on Earth - all of a sudden you have to think about what's different about Mars that's going to make this invention really useful for our astronauts.

Right.

Absolutely. Well, with that in mind, lets go ahead and talk a little bit more about some of the questions that are coming in. And Erin writes in and wants to know, "Is there any way that we could dig deep enough in the surface so water wouldn't freeze on Mars?"

Susan speaking on screen.

Well, that's an interesting question. Something that we definitely need to consider when we consider going to Mars is the time that things take. Depending on the duration of our study, we may or may not have a whole lot of time on the surface. And because the Mars journey itself takes such a long time to get from Mars to Mars - and it's potentially an expensive trip for us to take - it's important for us to utilize all of our time to the best of our abilities.

So, the answer to your question is, it might be possible to dig that deep. I honestly couldn't tell you one way or the other. But you might consider if you're thinking about it with regard to your invention, is it worth the time that it would take the crew members to dig that deep, especially if we only have a crew of five or seven. And they're needing to do other experiments, do more exploration and collect things from the surface of Mars. So, it's really something you should evaluate: Is the benefit worth the cost?

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Just want the students to know that we're working really closely with the Challenger centers there in Washington. In the Challenger Center are the people that actually came up with the design challenges that you're working on this year, and for every year that Space Day has been in existence. So those are the follow with the answers to help you get along. And they have some wonderful sites connected on the Space Day web site to help you as you go along. And, of course, ePals - as they talk across the states with other students that are involved in the design challenges. These are great ways to kind of top ideas off with your classmates in other classrooms across the country.

Jesse writes us from Missouri, and he's in 7th grade.

Erika speaking on screen.

And he wants to know what kind of materials could be used to make a Mars space suit that would be light enough for astronauts to wear in gravity.

Susan speaking on screen.

That's a very good question. A Mars space suit is something that is very important to us here, and something that we're looking into. The current space suits that we have that exist are made for zero gravity. Basically the astronauts just use them when they're out floating outside the vehicle on an extravehicular activity. So they're both not light enough for the crew members to wear on the surface, and they're not flexible enough. So, you really, you're question actually has a two-fold answer. The first thing you would need to look at, if you're looking into designing a space suit, is lightweight materials. The astronauts will have 3/8ths gravity when they're on Mars, so it has to be something that even a small female can wear on the surface.

Picture of astronauts inside space vehicle.

At the same time it needs to be something that's very mobile. The astronauts will need to kneel, will need to bend, will need to be able to reach and function pretty much like a normal human being inside this suit. There are many light weight materials out there that we use currently. Something such as Nomax, that's both a flame resistant and lightweight material that's good for the outside of the suit. Aluminum joints are very good because they're also lightweight.

The inside of the suit also will have to have some sort of bladder in it because pressure is a major issue. There are many types of rubber that are being used currently that could also be used in a Martian suit that are lightweight enough for a small female to be able to carry them on the surface.

This is really interesting. And the video that we're watching right now is actually us testing some items that we had of potential suit that would be great for Mars.

Right.

And we do a lot of this testing on the KC135. And, um, you could probably find out a lot more about that aircraft and the different research we do on board at, on any of the NASA Web sites, especially like spaceflight.nasa.gov.

Right.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Picture of astronaut jumping in the space environment.

Now, if you look at that video, you can see the joints in his hips and knees when he jumps. There are many additional joints added to a Martian suit than there are to a current EVA suit.

Now, you mention something that she suggested that the students need to remember if they were thinking about creating some type of attachment or suit itself. And that was a bladder. Now, a lot of people know that's an actual body part. But the students may not really realize what you mean when you're saying bladder.

Susan speaking on screen.

Yeah, I should have explained that term better. It's not related at all to the bladder in your body. What it is is just a layer on the inside of the suit that is able to be pressurized. We're able to put pressure inside the suit, so that the astronaut's body feels the same amount of pressure that you feel here on Earth when you're just sitting in your classroom or outside playing at recess. That's important because the pressure on Mars is very different, and the human body could not survive without a pressurized suit. So the rubber bladder that I referred to goes inside the suit and allows us to provide the pressure to the body that's necessary for survival.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. I'm kind of skipping around the chat room here. I'm going to get to everyone's questions as soon as we possibly can, but I do have a question that's really related to what we're talking about right now, which is space suits. Erika speaking on screen. And this comes in from Marion School, Mrs. Glachman's class, and I believe this Sam writing in and wanting to know what are the differences between the space suit designed from Mars, and those for EVAs on STS missions? So are there similarities and differences there?

Okay. Sure, absolutely. Right now there are many, there are many differences. Right now mobility is not a major concern of the EVA suits that are currently being used on space station. Again, the crew members are not actually walking on a surface. They are more floating outside the vehicle.

Picture of astronauts floating outside space vehicle.

So actual mobility of their arms and legs is not something that is a major concern.

Hand mobility and fine motor skills is a concern. So, a lot of the technology that we've developed to allow the crew members to pick up a hammer or a drill or a screw, we'll also use on Mars.

Weight is also an major issue. The current EVA suits are extremely heavy. It's not a problem because the crew members are in zero gravity, and so that weight they don't actually feel.

Susan speaking on screen.

On Mars, however, there will be 3/8ths gravity, so the crew members will feel the weight of a space suit. Here at NASA we design all of our hardware, including space suits, to fit a wide range of people. From a 5th percentile Japanese female - which is on the, one of the smallest ends of human beings - to a 95th percentile AmErika n female, I mean, AmErika n male, excuse me. So, the suits actually have to be able to be worn by a 5th percentile Japanese female. And she needs to be able to support herself and the weight of the suit in 3/8ths gravity.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

You know, that's really interesting, the kind of information that you really kind of put together before you design things. So, that's kind of cool. I know you're wondering why I'm holding the gardening glove. What does that have to do with inventing something from Mars. But, you know, I keep having these cool ideas.

Isn't that what this is all about?

Exactly.

Showing Erika putting gardening glove on her hand.

Well, this has to be, this is just something just kind of a cool bit of experiment, and some of you classes out there have probably already done it. This is just a regular gardening, or actually a hardware glove that you use to build things, or things like that. But to kind of get a really good idea of what it's like for the astronauts to work in those pressurized gloves, this is probably close as you get.

Borrow some of mom and dad's old gardening gloves or hardware gloves, and basically put these gloves on, or if you have, um, if you're in some of the states that really have a winter - not like Texas - you can put on a couple of layers of mittens, and try to pick up and stack pennies.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

I tell you, after you do that, then you kind of have an understanding of how interesting it is - actually how hard it is - to actually work in something this thick. And imagine pressurized.

Susan speaking on screen.

Right. Exactly. I mean not only do you have the added material of the gloves, but imagine like a doctor's latex glove that were inflated inside that glove - that you are fighting against both of those to perform any of your activities. It's quite a challenge for the crew members.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Absolutely. Well, we have more questions coming in, and Shane wants to know how can you grow food on Mars. We talked a little bit about the importance of growing food on Mars, but how would you grow food on Mars?

Susan speaking on screen.

Well, that's another area that is being researched here at Johnson Space Center, as well as some of the other NASA Centers. There's a lot of technology that's being developed to try to grow plants in soil that is not typical soil that you'll find here on Earth, and grow a large amount of plants in a small amount of volume. Volume is a big issue in space. We don't have a lot of "space" in space, because it costs money to fly pressurized volumes. And so, right now they're developing a certain kind of soil here at the Johnson Space Center, called zeoponix. This is a soil that provides a lot of the nutrients - a vast majority of the nutrients - that are needed for plants to grow.

Picture of plants being harvested by astronaut.

In addition, they're looking at genetic engineering of plants to try to get a large amount of the nutrient part of plants to grow in a small volume, whether that be very short wheat plants or very dense sweet potato plants. All of those will be very beneficial for gardening food in space.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Some of the art that you saw pop up was an artist's idea what it might look like in a habitat on Mars where you kind of see just one of the astronauts going in there and harvesting some lettuce it looked like.

Artist's picture of plants being grown.

Which would be really good. I think that, you know, a lot of times when you think about growing food, we think about it for survival.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

What about for the psychological benefits of being able to eat a really good fresh salad, just like you would on Earth. That can be very good.

Erika speaking on screen.

You know, we have to think about mental things when you when you go away from home for long periods of time - and time to just keep yourself feeling like everything is just like it was on Earth, even though you know it's different. So that's something important to think about, too.

Susan speaking on screen.

Absolutely. We've done some chamber studies here where we've confined crew members for 15, 30, 60 and 90 days at a time. And in one of them we did have some plants growing, and we grew a tomato plant. So they had red tomatoes during their stay. And they said that was one of the most exciting parts of their entire study, was to see something live and growing and especially the red of the tomato plant. So, huge psychological benefits.

Erika speaking on screen.

Shawna writes in and wants to know, would it be possible to make a machine that would change carbon dioxide into oxygen. I think everybody's into trying to change these things that are, water and things like that. So is that possible?

Susan speaking on screen.

Right. Well, we have a machine that already changes carbon dioxide into oxygen, called a plant. That's another benefit of having plants on orbit, is they work the same as they do here on Earth. You know, you hear of the healthy benefits of having house plants in your house. It's very similar to having plants on orbit with you. It's a very symbiotic relationship between the human and the plant in that they will turn our carbon dioxide back into oxygen for us and vice verse.

Erika speaking on screen.

Okay. Abby writes in, and this is from Mrs. Kaye's class. I'm hoping I'm getting this right, and wanting to know how long are you going to be able to live on Mars at a time.

Susan speaking on screen.

Well, a lot of how long we stay on Mars has to do with actually how the planets line up, has to do with something that we call orbital mechanics. And there are only certain times during the rotations of the planets that it makes sense for us to travel both to and from Mars. The Earth and Mars need to be similar in their orbits before we travel back and forth. So, we can stay on Mars for a very short period of time or a very long period of time as long as we make sure that the planets rotational cycles line up.

One of the main things that's going to drive how long we can stay are life support systems. Are we able to develop technology that allows us to help the crew survive, provide them oxygen, food, control their temperature - everything that they're going to need to live.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. As we keep on going through some of these questions, we have lot's of them in the chat room - and we're going to get to all of those - we want to go really quickly over some of the things that the judges are going to be looking at when you turn in those very cool inventions that you guys are working on as we speak. Some of the things that you're going to be able to be recognized in there are, actually some categories.

Erika speaking on screen.

So, we're going to be, not necessarily Susan and myself, but a team of folks that are working with Space Day, are going to be reviewing your projects. And they're going to look for the most creative, the best collaboration, the most useful - you know, the Inventors Wanted, and it's one of those that we'd want to see if it's something useful that the astronaut can use on Mars. And, of course, the best design. And actually, the best design is for Space Day Stars, so I was wrong about that. That won't be for this one. But, most creative, best collaboration, and most useful, are the things they're going to be looking for. And, of course, they're going to be looking at all the things that we talked about earlier - making sure that you turn in all the information, describe what kind of research you did. And if you do all those things, your teacher knows about if it's on your Rubric. They will be able to get you the best chance at becoming one of our stellar teams.

Very cool, and right.

All right. Well, one of the questions that's coming in is from Zachary from Ohio. Ohio writes in again, and hi Zachary! Hopefully, you are doing great today. And he wants to know will people living on Mars need more, less, or the same amount of sleep as people on Earth.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Now, we already know how they're going to sleep, which we've been working on. But, do we need more or less do you think?

Susan speaking on screen.

Well, for the most part, they need the same amount of sleep. The research that we've done shows that, again, human beings do best with about 8 hours of sleep per night. So, that's what we're striving for on the Space Station currently - and what we'll shoot for on Mars, as well. So, sleep, the amount of sleep they need, shouldn't really be affected by being on another planet.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. Mrs. Mead's science class. You guys are writing in some excellent questions today, and this one is from Jennifer and Elaine. I bet you thought that I forgot about you, but I didn't. I've just been kind of jumping around, and I'm going to get to your question. Jennifer and Elaine want to know, will they need to protect their rover from radiation on Mars.

Susan speaking on screen.

Sure, all of the equipment that you're going to have outside your vehicle is going to have to be protected from radiation. Unfortunately, any space environment you're in - either the low Earth orbit, like space station/space shuttle are at, or Mars - definitely has much more radiation exposure than the Earth does. So, that's definitely a good thought that you guys had. You definitely should do a little bit more research into it, and find a way that you'll protect your rover from radiation.

Erika speaking on screen.

Okay. Well, Natalie wants to know, this is the question, now - we've already kind of read your bios, so I've got a little bit of an inside check on wanting to know this. And the question is, "How did you become a scientist?" Now, I know you're kind of engineer/scientist - you have a couple of backgrounds. And that's about it.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

And then the second question - that has nothing to do with your career - is, "What is the soil like?" So, we can kind of take that in two parts.

Susan speaking on screen.

Okay. Well, I will give you the condensed version of how I became a scientist, engineer is actually what I am - an engineer that deals with a lot of science. But, my degree is actually in biomedical engineering. That's a neat degree because I was able to combine science and engineering. I originally did it to try to go to medical school, and decided that I really loved the math side of engineering more. So that's why I chose to be an engineer.

Now the second question is, "What is the soil like?".

And, you know what, I've got somethin' that kind of looks like it, but I know I haven't been to Mars.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Right. Cool. Yeah, this is very cool. That one's a tough question. It is definitely much more grainy than our soil is here on Earth. We have created some simulated soil that you see here at Johnson Space Center. It also doesn't have quite the same nutrients. So, we're not exactly sure how we would be able to grow plants in this type of soil. That's the reason we're looking to develop our own soil products here, that are more condensed than the soil you have in your garden. Because we're not exactly sure that the Martian soil can grow the plants that we need to.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

That's right. As a matter of fact, that little commercial that we ran at the beginning was totally like making sure that you know that that was all in fun. We have not created - just to make sure you know - something that would grow plants in that kind of soil yet. But you never know at NASA would come up with in the future.

Erika speaking on screen.

All right. How, why couldn't you survive on Mars or in space without a helmet. And this comes from the Marion School - Bret wants to know.

Well helmets are important in space for a lot of different reasons. First of all if you're in a space suit, you need the helmet to enclose your head and protect you from the atmosphere that the suit is protecting you from.

In addition, even when you're inside the vehicle - and so you're not needing to be protected from the environment. The helmet helps in a lot of reasons. It's a good way for the crew to communicate with each other. They have small microphones within their helmets. And, being enclosed inside a helmet, helps get rid of some of the noise that the vehicle makes, and allows them to communicate that way.

Picture of space vehicle.

In addition, the most of the time that the crew members wear helmets inside the vehicle, is when the vehicle's moving.

Susan speaking on screen.

So basically, during launch or during landing. And most important, to kind of keep their head in place, prevent them from having undue neck strain or bump their head against something.

All right. And that makes complete sense.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

And, that might be something interesting for people to be able to explore a little bit more - maybe some kind of cool invention would come out of that information.

Erika speaking on screen.

Well, I just found out from just looking at our chat room that Mrs. Mead's class is in Iowa, so we actually have Iowa connected today which is really kind of neat. Hello to everyone there in Iowa. And, you know, I know that glass is actually made from sand, but they're giving us a really tricky one, and maybe you know this one and maybe not. Mrs. Mead's class wants to know can we make glass from the sand on Mars. Now, that's an interesting question. Can you?

Susan speaking on screen.

That's a very good question. To be honest with you, I'm not sure it's even something that we've looked into.

There's really not a whole lot of glass flown on all of it right now, because of the safety aspects, because broken glass floating in a zero gravity environment could be very dangerous for the crew. You know, it could fly into their body or into their eyes. So, we really don't fly much glass currently, but it's a very good question. You might want to do a little bit more research and see if you can find the answer. I'm sorry I can't answer that for you.

Erika speaking on screen.

That's really interesting, too, that they're asking that question. Maybe someone's thinking like earlier that a lot of the things that we have to have on Mars, we will have once we get there. We will create and make, and maybe not even bring back with us when we come back, so.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well, that may be an option. Yeah, I'm not quite sure what it is. It sounds very interesting. I can't wait to see some of these projects come in. I can't wait to see what you guys are coming up with.

Erika speaking on screen.

Okay. Abby wants to know what kind of house are they going to live in. And, actually, Abby is in Mrs. Kusik's 5th grade class in Bethel, Maine. So, I wanted to make sure we announce and said hello to the folks there in Maine.

Susan speaking on screen.

Well, the house they're going to live on is -going to live in, I should say - is a very interesting question. That's something that's sort of up for debate right now. Does it make sense to fly a habitat to Mars, and have it there when the crew arrives? Or does it make sense for them to build a habitat once they get there? Those are two things you guys might consider in your design - either designing for a habitat that's already existing on Mars that we fly ahead for the crew, or a habitats that they build themselves on the surface once they get there.

The habitat will need to house everything that they're going to need for both living and working while they're on Mars. For working it will need to hold all the experiments that they need, all the scientific equipment and microscopes that they need. It'll need to hold all of their maintenance equipment, so that they can fix things - both inside the habitat and outside.

And it will also need to hold all the things they need to live in space, the place that they gather, the place that they sleep, that they eat, that they take care of hygiene and waste, any sort of medical needs that they would have - all of this has to be contained within the same facility, which is the habitat. So it needs to be quite a multifaceted, complex place for the crew to live.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. Well, you know guys, you see Susan and me on camera today, but we also have another partner that's working with us today, and that is Lori Keith, and Lori Keith is our NASA chat host. I just want to let you guys know that there are a lot of questions in the chat room, and we are going to try our best to get to most of those within the next 15 minutes - which is, unfortunately, all we have left today is about 15 minutes.

Erika speaking on screen.

But, we are going to have a page attached to this archived WebQuest or Web cast, and it's going to be called "frequently asked questions". So, if we don't answer your questions live, be assured that we will make sure that the answers to your questions get posted on this "frequently asked questions" page that deals strictly with the design challenge that you are working on. Okay?

Our next question comes in from Tony, Nick, and Dan. And the question is, or the statement, "Since the gravity on Mars is just 38% of Earth, is that going to affect how motors and gears work on tools and rovers on Mars?"

Susan speaking on screen.

That's a very good question. We definitely think it will affect some ways that gears work and that motors work because some of those are driven by gravity. The reduced gravity definitely does need to be considered - which it sounds like you guys are doing a good job of considering that. In general gears will work the same mechanically, but what drives them may need to drive them with more or less power to overcome the reduced gravity. Okay?

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well, that's a to-the-point question. And, actually, it probably will help them get to the answer that they're looking for.

Erika speaking on screen.

Okay. Natalie wants to know, would you instantly die if you walked out on Mars without a helmet.

Susan speaking on screen.

With, yes. I'm listening to you, Susan, because, you know, I watched the movie too. But, I mean, you know, and it shows that it's pretty bad! Yeah. Yeah. It really would. The pressure difference that you experience is just not something the human body can survive without protection. And there's also an oxygen problem, you know, that there's not enough oxygen for us to breath. And it's much, much, much too cold to live there. But, pressure, I would guess, you know - not being an M.D. - but I would guess, would be the first thing that would kill you, unfortunately, if you walked out on Mars without a suit.

But that, you know, that brings up a good point. That, right there, shows you the critical, critical importance of having a good suit that is safe.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. I think the next question is coming from Randy and Ashley, or either it, the name is Randy Ashley from Iowa. Oh, you guys know who I'm talking about. Would it be possible to use the iron on Mars to make things like wind generators. Now, these folks have been doing a little bit of research into iron on Mars.

Susan speaking on screen.

Yeah. Absolutely. That's a good question. And, I'm not sure I can answer it for sure. It sounds like a good idea. Absolutely. You might want to think about the tools that you would need to turn the iron into a useable product to make a wind generator. I can't tell you for sure that it's something that you could do. But it sounds like it might be possible. And it sounds like something that would be very beneficial for you guys to research.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. You know, one of the schools that joined us today, Susan, we've already talked to a lot of, is the Marion School. Now remember that question we had from Sam? Sam wanted to know, are we actually researching, uh, suits for design for Mars - and a comparison between the suits that we have now for extravehicular activities - which by the way, are "space walks" for you guys, if that word's too long. Or suits like that and ones that for our astronauts on Mars.

Well, now you don't have to answer this, because this might actually be the research that he needs to do for his invention. He wants to know what are the actual materials that you will be using to construct your space suit from Mars.

Susan speaking on screen.

That is an interesting question, and it does sort of sound like a question that you could research and come up with. I can tell you, I think I mentioned some of this earlier, but in case some of you missed it, you know, some of the important qualities in the material: it definitely needs to be lightweight. It needs to be flexible. Something I'm not sure I mentioned before, is there is a lot of dust on Mars. So, if you're talking about doing a space walk on the surface, you need a material that's not going to allow the dust to get into the suit. You also need a material that isn't going to erode easily because the suit is going to have to have many joints on it in order for the crew to have the mobility that they need to walk around. So, you're going to have to consider what kind of material can I make joints out of that the dust is not going to get in and clog and bind those joints. So, there are a lot of things to consider. And, I know, from being on the Space Day Web site, that there are a lot of good references out there to show you what we're currently looking at for suits. And maybe you guys can be a little bit creative on your own, also, with other materials.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Rachel wants to know what would the range in temperatures on Mars have an effect. Would they have an effect on the amount of bacteria found on Mars, if any is found?

Susan speaking on screen.

That's a good question, because we're not sure yet what kind of bacteria could possibly be formed on Mars. Temperature, more than having an effect on what's currently there, probably has an effect on what has been there. I know a lot of the research could be looking into, are there fossils on Mars? Is there proof that there could have been life in the past? And maybe if there is, we could show that the temperatures that exist on Mars maybe eliminated some of that life - such that we're not having a lot of luck finding life today.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

That's right. That's really interesting, because that person writes in, Rachel, "...if any is found.". So, I mean, there's a lot of controversy out there. But what we're looking at is that, if there was water on Mars, then what we're looking at is bacteria in the water. But we haven't proven that yet. And that'll be something interesting. I think all of our fingers will cross, and we're just waiting on pins and needles to see what kind of information we can get.

Erika speaking on screen.

Mrs. Glassman's class, Corrie, from Mrs. Glassman's class, wants to know, how would your brain change? Or would it, on Mars?

Susan speaking on screen.

Your brain itself, I would say probably wouldn't change a whole lot. What does change to some extent is the amount of blood that is going to your brain. If you see astronauts currently - I'm sure you guys sometimes see astronauts on the news or on the Discovery Channel - and their faces look really puffy. The reasons they look puffy is that the blood and other fluids are rushing to their head. Because they're in microgravity more blood floats up than currently on Earth, where you have gravity pulling the blood down. So the same thing would happen on Mars. Not to the extent that it happens in microgravity, but to some extent to where you would have a fluid shift and a blood shift up towards the head. This wouldn't be a major concern of why you're on Mars, but would be a concern once you get back home because your body will adapt to having the blood and fluid in your head. And when you get back to the Earth, and the blood comes back and pools in your feet - like it normally does for you and I right now - your body doesn't handle that very well. So, it's definitely a concern for crew members returning to the Earth and then having to readapt to living in gravity.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I think that we have some video that can actually show what that does in space. And it will be great to just go ahead and talk a little bit about this - We were talking about the flow of fluids in microgravity. And, so, that might help you students out, to kind of see what that looks like. We can go ahead and role that. Oh, we did? Oh, I'm sorry. I was lookin' at the wrong camera!

Picture on left side of screen of person, right side a hand holding balloon full of fluid.

Take a look at it again. You know, just to make sure you see this. This might not be video that your able to get a hold of too quickly, but is something to definitely think about when your in space is, how things change.

Split screen showing astronaut on left side of screen with regular face, and on the right side of screen in space with puffy face.

And so I'm sorry about that. I was looking at a different camera. Sometimes, some of the things of working on a camera here at Johnson Space Center.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

All right. Well, we've got a couple more questions that we'll be more than happy to answer before it's time for us to go for the day.

Hannah is in the 5th grade class - that's Mrs. Glassman's 5th grade class - and she wants to know, have they picked the first crew for Mars? And, if they have, who are they, and what will their mission be called?

Susan speaking on screen.

Wow. The answer to that question is that they have not picked the first crew for Mars. As a matter of fact, many of the first crew members for Mars may be tuning into this web cast. We're not at the point, right now, that we actually have a planned date to go to Mars. We're developing a lot of technology, and it's definitely something that is on the horizon. But, more than likely the crew that goes to Mars is not even in college right now. So many of you have great potential to be on that crew.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Which is really interesting. Which would be really kind of cool because that is a possibility. All of you watching there that are a part of the Space Day design challenges could be our future crews going to Mars.

Kathy and Ashley are from Iowa and they're wanting to know, will it be possible to have pets on Mars.

That is a good question. Definitely research has been done into taking animals into space. You know, we have some animals that we have taken up on the shuttle and we'll take up on the Space Station. Unfortunately, those animals haven't really been tests as much as they have been scientific experiments. But, they have been able to survive the microgravity. So, it is a possibility that we would look into the benefits of the psychological effects of pets on humans. And we could potentially take them to Mars.

Susan speaking on screen.

Most of the intent of taking animals into space right now, like I mentioned earlier, is science. So, unfortunately those aren't seen as pets because we can't really guarantee that they will survive the entire trip or that part of the science that we do could possibly lead to, into their lives. But, it is possible to consider having pets in space. Absolutely.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

I'm kind of skipping around here. And Kathy and Natalie are writing, and they want to know about animals on Mars - and they mean, like, cows or horses.

Oh.

That's a little bit different than pets - well, I guess a horse could be a pet. But, I don't know if they mean as cows to provide some type of food or dairy product. I'm not sure what they're asking.

Susan speaking on screen.

Okay. With regard to, would it be possible to fly them to Mars and then survive? We do think it would be possible because we think, for the most part, we could get any animal to survive. However, there is the problem that we have such a limited amount of space and such a limited amount of weight that we can actually fly into orbit.

It probably is not very likely that we would ever take a cow or horse into orbit because those are pretty heavy, pretty large animals, and we would have to deal with both the space they take up and just their normal everyday functions - from the way that they eat to the way that they create waste. And it might not be worth the benefits that we get out of them. So, the likelihood is if we took any animals to Mars, it would be a smaller animal.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Rachel from Houston wants to know does the amount of fat, oxygen, and water in your body change because of the difference in gravity and in density on Mars.

Susan speaking on screen.

There are definite changes in those items because of reduced gravity. I can't tell you exactly what the percentages are and how those change. But, that is one of the major psycho, or, I'm sorry, physiological issues that we look at when we are dealing with space flight, because changes in those things end up changing things like your muscles and your bones and your heart, and things like that are your major concerns - major body systems. I know there is some information on the Space Day Web site about this physiological impact of microgravity on the human body. So that's something you should probably look at to get exact numbers for that, but show those things do change.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well, Miss Glassman's class, we have Dana and Mike wanting to know, if you poured water in space, would it freeze instantly?

Susan speaking on screen.

If you poured water in space - like if you're in your actual space vehicle, no, not at all. Your space vehicle is temperature controlled. So, if you poured water in space it actually would turn into a big ball. Water has a tendency to form into a globule in space. So that's actually what would happen.

Picture of water globule floating in space.

Now, pouring water outside, in space itself, then it likely would instantly freeze.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

You know, it's interesting. So, we've finally got a question - we meant to get that water video to you earlier, but we're glad that we finally got that to you. So, those are some things to consider if you're considering a machine or something like that, that's what we have to deal with when dealing with water in space - at least in microgravity.

Right.

All right. Well, another question that I actually had, was, you know, it's going to be quite a while - we're telling the students out there it'll be their generation that's going to be our first human exploration and crews to Mars. Once they are adults and become astronauts and they go to Mars - what, you know, what type of people do you think we would send on our first mission to Mars. What types of astronauts, or what types of scientists and engineers will we need to send?

Susan speaking on screen.

That's a very good question. We're going to have to have a pretty diverse first crew that we send to Mars. We'll likely probably only send about 5 to 7 crew members - and we need a lot of skills within those 5 to 7 people. We'll need scientists - scientists that are into the Earth sciences. We'll need geologists. We'll also need people that are in life sciences and biologists, chemists. We'll also need engineers of many sorts - probably electrical, chemical, mechanical, environmental engineers, absolutely. We'll also need medical professionals - medical doctors, likely a dentist, and maybe even a medical assistant. So, basically if you are going to go to Mars you're going to have to wear many hats. You're probably going to have to be trained in many different professions and be a true Renaissance man or woman.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Well, that's probably interesting to know. But I would think, I know the one thing that I would think would be a geologist, or something like that. That would be, kind of, you know, those types of things. So those are some good questions coming in.

Tasha, Kelsey, and Katie want to know, would it be possible to have a recycling system on Mars.

We did talk about that a little bit earlier, but, I don't know. Maybe we could expand on that as far as recycling systems.

Yeah, recycling will be critical of all of your systems. You'll recycle your own water, recycle your own air. Like I mentioned earlier, you definitely will have a closed-loop life support system. So, you'll even recycle your own waste - solid and liquid waste.

Susan speaking on screen.

So, recycling is one of the main things that's going to allow us to go to Mars in the future, and it not cost too much.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. Tony and Nick from Iowa want to know, Iowa want to know, if someone gets hurt, will it be possible to do surgery on Mars?

Susan speaking on screen.

Absolutely. That's one of the things that we're hoping to learn a lot by on space station - is medical procedures on Mars. It's something that we definitely will fly a medical professional at some part - and surgery will be possible.

Erika and Susan shown on screen.

Okay. Well I want to thank Susan Ramsey for being with us here today. And, join us for both Web casts tomorrow for Design Challenge #2 and #3. Have a good day.

 
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