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Space Day Challenge 3

Sherri Jurls speaking on screen.

Sherri: Hello all of you out there in the World Wide Web world. Welcome to Johnson Space Center. My name is Sherri Jurls, and I'll be your host today.

Johnson Space Center is one of ten NASA centers from across the United States, that each has a special focus. Our focus here at JSC is the Human Space Flight Program.

For those of you who have never visited us before, it's a beautiful place to work.

Video of Johnson Space Center with Gulf of Mexico in the background.

This is what it looks like. We have about 1620 acres. Hundreds of buildings, and about 28,000 employees who all work here together as part of a team to support the Human Space Flight Program.

You can see at the back of your screen there, the blue just over the horizon is the Gulf of Mexico.

Back to Sherri.

We're home of the Space Shuttle Program, home of the Astronaut Corps, and also home of the International Space Station Program, but you guys have all been working on a very special project, the Space Day Design Challenge #3 where you're creating electronic newsletter, and we have a very special guest with us today. His name is Kelly Humphries. Welcome, Kelly.

Sherri and Kelly on screen.

Kelly: Hi, Sherri, how you doing?

Sherri: Great. Thank you for being with us. Would you take a moment and explain to us what your background is today.

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Sure. You bet. Let's see, I started out as a copy boy at a newspaper a long time ago before they even had computers at newspapers. They used to set the type in lead and then put it into molds and then run it on the big presses. But I got to watch computers come into the newspaper business, and I worked in newspapers for about 11 years. I was a reporter and an editor. Then I went back to graduate school and got a degree in public administration or government and then ended up coming here to NASA to work at Johnson Space Center about 15 years ago.

My first big job while I was here was editing the Space Center's newspaper which was the Space News Round-up. That was a weekly newspaper where we told all the employees, it went out to about 16,000 people, and explained what was going on with the space program and the space shuttle program in particular because the space station wasn't a going concern just yet.

But during that time things changed in the information world with the advent of the Internet. So it wasn't as important to have a weekly paper anymore because people were getting their news on e-mail and they were looking it up on Web sites like CBS.com and wherever else you wanted to look. So we kind of changed things a little and we don't use the newspaper, the printed paper, as much for getting the latest news out to people. We try and do feature stories and in depth looks at what's going on.

Instead we use what we call the Daily Cyberspace Round-up, and I think we may have a copy of that that you can look at.

Picture of Cyberspace Roundup Web site.

That's on-line and you can look at that every day that we share that kind of information with the employees. This is something you might want to look at as one way to look at how to do the same kind of thing from Mars.

Back to Kelly.

Now the other thing I've been doing since 1995, we decided it was time to put together a Web site to tell everybody about what was going on in the space shuttle program. Then that grew into telling people what was going on in the space station, and now as you can see here with this little look that I think Sherri can pull up for you, we have the NASA Human Space Flight Web. That was my baby. I started that in 1995 and it's grown to where we get about 1.7 billion hits a year. McDonald's look out.

Picture of NASA Human Space Flight Web site.

There's all kinds of information about the space shuttle, the space station, and this particular page talks about Mars exploration which is very appropriate to your challenge today.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Great, thanks, Kelly. So that's what your continuing to do today.

Kelly: That's right. Some of the other things I happen to do is I'm one of the voices for Mission Control.

Kelly speaking on screen.

If you guys get to watch NASA TV during the space station duty thing where we have details about 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Central Time every day during the week, and then during shuttle missions you night hear me at any hour of the day trying to explain all the engineering gobbledy gook talk that we hear on the communications loop in Mission Control. I try and take all that in, understand it, and then repeat it out in terms that anybody can understand on the television.

You can on the Wpace Flight Human Webalso watch NASA TV on your computer if you don't get it at your cable company.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: Well, for those of you who want the reference of those, both of those Web sites that Kelly just showed us, our chat host, Lori, is entering them into the chat room so you can have those for easy reference.

I think it's time now to start going to your questions. Everyone please take a moment, go into the chat room and submit your questions, that's what we're here for, and for the remainder of this hour that's what we will be doing is taking all of your questions and our expert, Kelly, will be answering those questions.

Well, the first question is from Miss Gaddes 8th grade class in Dallas. Students there want to know, Kelly, what kind of skills are needed to be a reporter?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Well, you start off for reporter skills is you want to learn about, a little bit about a lot of different things. It's not important when you start out as a reporter to be an expert in any particular subject, but you want to of course learn good grammar, you want to learn how to spell well, you want to know how to interact with people so that you can interview them, and you want to have a really questioning mind so that you don't take everything at face value and that you ask good questions.

But the big thing, really, especially when I tell people what to look for as they're going through high school and college is try and learn a little bit about a lot of subjects. Then once you get into your career you may want to specialize in something and learn a lot more about that particular subject so you really get to be an expert on it, but it really helps you to have a good background.

Also keep up on current events so that you know what's going on in the world around.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Okay. Well, Michelle from Mrs. Carlson's class out in California wants to know if photos and magazine clippings and all those sorts of things can be scanned and attached to newspapers?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Yes, they can, but you want to be real careful when you do that kind of thing because the, it takes a lot longer for people to download a page that has a photo on it or a scanned piece of paper. So you're really better off having the text kind of files be in what's known as the hypertext mark-up language, HTML, because it's the fastest way to download things. You want to pick and choose the things that you have in more bandwidth intensive things like pictures and movies and the like so that you're really getting the additional value of that download time and not just have a gee whiz thing to do it, or make it easy for yourself.

Also remember that if you're trying to scan in pages of things there are things called optical character readers that can actually read the letters and turn them into the basic text so you can plug them into those clip to download formats.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Okay, thank you, Kelly. Ryan writes in and wants to know if astronauts have journals in space, and if so, what kind? Like paper journals, electric journals, voice journals?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Yes, they do different kinds. It kind of depends on the astronaut. Now back on shuttle mission STS81 I think it was, John Grunsfeld did a special journal that we published on the internet. So he actually thought about what he wanted to say to the folks on the ground about what he was doing and things like that, and we published that every day on the shuttle, NASA shuttle Web back when it was just the shuttle Web.

Then one of our early American astronauts to visit MIR, Jerry Linnehan, did a very extensive set of journals that he wrote to his son, and he wrote them just like kind of as a historical document for his son who was just born right before he went into space and wouldn't be able to actually experience it in real time but because of the journals that Jerry wrote when he grows up and is old enough to read he's going to do that.

So, yes, they do that a lot, and mostly it's in the form of a computerized journal. Some of them still use pencil and paper but it's a lot easier to write on the computer.

Sherri is speaking on screen.

Sherri: I agree. Natalie from Mrs. Hill's 6th grade class would like to know, how long does it take to communicate back and forth between Earth and Mars?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Now remember I'm not the technical expert on this stuff so I'm giving a guess, but it takes generally a little bit more than half an hour for a signal to get back and forth here and so you've got to take that into consideration as you're developing your information products and tell people about things that are getting ready to happen and things that have happened but try to steer away from what's going on right now because it's going to be 40 minutes old by the time it gets here.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Great, thank you, Kelly. We have another question from Mrs. Hill's 6th grade class. Jeremy wants to know if he can quote people that he didn't speak to?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: No, you really shouldn't do that. If you don't speak to the people you shouldn't quote them because you weren't there and it becomes a bit of a hearsay and one of the things you'll learn as you get on in life is that two people can say the exact same thing or hear the exact same thing and remember it differently. It's just because everything that we take in in our consciousness we take in with our own set of little rose colored glasses that we all wear and those are the ones that our experiences and our knowledge filter what comes in to our mind.

So when we construct it and spit it back out it's coming out through those filters. So that's why it's important if you're going to quote people directly to make sure that you really have spoken directly to those people, or these days you can send them a question on e-mail and ask them to send you the answer and you can use their written text as the quote.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Okay. Looks like Nancy from California is choosing to do something, her electronic newsletter on the Internet. She's wanting to know what's one of the easiest fonts to be able to read and the best size if you're doing an electronic newsletter on the Internet?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Well, there have been a lot of studies about what we call type fonts, as you know, and that's just basically the shape of the individual letters and they come in little families and all the letters are alike in one particular family.

One of the most readable fonts is called Times Roman. That's probably the font that you'll see most often. It's the default font on most browsers, it's the font that most newspapers use. NASA happens to use a font called Helvetica as its standard, but the really key thing is whatever font you use be sure and standardize and be consistent with that font.

You can have some differences, like headlines might be in a different font to highlight things, and picture captions could be in a slightly different font, but try and use those kinds of differences in your fonts to indicate a different kind of content like a caption versus a story versus a headline, and be consistent in the way you do it.

Sherry speaking on screen.

Sherri: Michelle from Mrs. Carlson's class out in California would like to know, in order to create computer animated clip art, do you need special software, special programs for that sort of thing?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: You can buy clip art that's already animated and they have some nice collections out there that don't cost a whole lot of money, and you can do a search on one of the big search engines like Yahoo or Alta Vista to find that kind of thing, or you can make your own. Animating GIF files, those are g-i-f files, is not that hard to do. You just make a number of different slides of the same file that are slightly different and then link them together.

PhotoShop and ImageReady are two of the best programs for doing that. Those programs are a little expensive but you might find that you have them at your school.

Sherri and Kelly shown together.

Sherri: Miss Gaddes 8th grade class in Dallas has another question for you. They want to know what are the best ways to make sure that facts are correct.

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Well, my favorite way of making sure the facts are correct is go back to the source and verify anything that you have any question about. It's always good to go out if you have what's known as empirical data, things that's been studied over and over again, go out and do some research in the library or do research on the Internet and look at a couple of three different sources to make sure that all the sources are agreeing. That's going to improve your odds that what you're using is accurate. But if there's anything that's in any kind of question as to its accuracy, always be sure just like in the movie, All The President's Men, I recommend you read it and watch it, that you get three verifiable sources on anything that has the potential to be real controversial because you want to be able to back up what you're writing.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Okay. Well, Michelle from Mrs. Carlson's class out in California would like to know if she took the digitized video attached to her e-paper, will she need a digital camera or other special equipment to do that?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: If you're going to record the video yourself, yes, you'll need some kind of camera. Now you can get little cameras that will fit right on top of your computer monitor and those are fairly easy and inexpensive. A lot of the digital cameras that'll take digital still photographs today will also take small movies.

Or you can get a computer and a real video camera and you can tape what you want to do on the video on the regular VHS video tape and then transfer that, digitize it through some fairly readily available programs. I just the other day was over to a friend's house and we digitized some movies I'd taken of my daughter. She's in the 8th grade and she was singing at the Pops Concert, and we took the video of her and digitized it and I'm saving it on CD so I can send it to her grandmother.

Sherri and Kelly shown together.

Sherri: Well, that's fun to watch. Well, Miss Gaddes class, 8th grade class again in Dallas has another question for us and this is one that many people ask. What are the copyright laws on taking pictures from the NASA Web site to aid in their newspaper?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Well, the really neat think about NASA is that almost everything we publish is what's known as public domain. That means you can use it regardless. We, of course, love for you to put a photo credit that says NASA photo on it to indicate the source, but anything that you pull off of any of the Web sites that I've mentioned here, any of the Web sites that have NASA.gov on the end of them are all public domain and you can go ahead and use those in your paper.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Wonderful. I know there are plenty of beautiful images available on our Web site.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Kelly I want to thank you for being a part of that since you gather all of that together to make it convenient for all of us to find it in one place on that spaceflight.NASA.gov Web page.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Okay, Katlin, from Mrs. Hill's 6th grade class wants to know what is meant by journalistic integrity?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Well, the main thing by journalistic integrity, the initial thing, is the dedication to the truth. We don't want to publish anything that's not the truth. Now there are side factors related to that. There are different kinds of interviews. Some times you, most interviews you want to try and have are on the record interviews. That means that the interviewer knows that every answer they give has the potential to show up in your newspaper or in your TV report.

Then there is not for attribution reports which means that they understand that you will, may use anything that they say, but that you're not going to attribute it to them. In other words you're not going to say that Jim Jones said this. You're going to say an unnamed source told me this.

Then there's completely off the record, and that means that whatever they tell you is just for your background and you promise not to use that or tell anybody where you got it, or to even reveal those sources in court to be real honest if you're asked to do that by subpoena.

So journalistic integrity in that respect means that whatever you tell the person you're interviewing, however you're going to take this, that you will live by that.

So if you promise them you're not going to say where you got that then you don't do that.

Sherri on screen.

Sherri: For those of you just joining us, this is a Web casting broadcast live from Johnson Space Center in conjunction with the Space Day Program, and the Space Day Web page is www.spaceday.com where you can find all sorts of resources available to you as you are working on your electronic newsletter which is the design challenge #3. This last design challenge. I believe we're ready for the next question.

We do want to remind everyone to take this opportunity to go into the chat room and submit your questions. That's what we're here for to spend some time with you answering your questions.

Well, Miss Gaddes 8th grade class in Dallas has another question for us. Wants to know if a good Web page can be made without JAVA and Slash and all that fancy stuff?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Yes.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

I figured you were asking about whether you have to use fancy stuff I'd give you a really plain and simple answer. Some of the nicest pages are the simplest pages. That's because it's very easy to navigate them, they don't take a lot to download, and they are very good at explaining exactly what you're trying to learn about. You don't have to have a lot of bells and whistles to convey the information you want to do.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: Okay. Denise is a 7th grade student from Missouri and she wants to know what the elements are for a good story.

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Well, in terms of the elements of a good journalistic story, you want to make sure that you go, you write it in what's called the inverted pyramid style. Inverted pyramid means that you start off with a first paragraph that has all the most important details all wrapped up on a ball so that anybody can read the first paragraph or two of the story and know the basics of that story.

That's because the way we read newspapers and read on-line news a lot of times is we read those first couple paragraphs and figure we've got it, and so you want to make sure all that information is in there. You want to have the seven main elements. You want to have who, what, where, when, why, how, and how much.

Sherry and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: That's a new one I haven't heard, that last seventh one.

Kelly: Let's, just to finish that off, Sherri,

Kelly speaking on screen.

you want to make sure that you have all those main things up in the first couple of three paragraphs and then you fill in all the details later down. You don't have to have a beginning and a conflict and an end in a newspaper story like you do in a novel or something. What you want to do is you want to have the main information up at the top and have all the little details sort of down at the bottom.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Great tip, thank you, Kelly. Well, Amy's a 5th grader from Maryland and she wants to know if she quotes something in her newspaper or uses someone else's photos, does she need to put the resource in the newspaper, or is it okay in the bibliography of the resources that wouldn't be in the actual newspaper itself?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Well, it kind of depends on the story to be real honest with you there. I am a big believer in going ahead and attributing your sources in the story. In other words you can paraphrase, in other words, you don't have to quote them directly but you can say the gist of what they said. Then put a comma, said Jim Jones, and that'll be a good way of attributing that.

It's always important too to explain why those people ought to be considered a reliable source for the information that you're getting from them too. So you want to explain what Jim Jones does so the people will say, oh, yeah, he ought to know what he's talking about when he talks about that.

Or if he doesn't, that they'll understand that you got to take it with a grain of salt.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: Very good. Isabelle wants to know how long in general should stories be?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: You want to make them, for a newspaper or an on-line paper, you want to make them about as, only as long as they need to be to tell the full story.

There are really, some of the best stories ever written have been very short and to the point stories. On the other hand some subjects are very complicated thorny issues and it takes a lot of writing to explain what's going on.

The other part of that is the style of the writer. If you're going to be writing a newspaper from Mars, you want to be really descriptive because remember, you're sending this to people who are at the closest about six months away from Mars, and they've never been there. They probably don't have much of a chance of going to there, and so you want to be very detailed in your description of the way things look, the way things feel, they smell, they taste, what kind of work you have to do to do everyday life, what kind of major objectives you're trying to accomplish when you're there. So you want to be a little bit longer in those kinds of instances.

But if you're going to talk about just a real short and simple kind of thing that's going on here on Earth like a fire at somebody's house, you want to be short and to the point.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Amy's a 5th grader and she has a multi-point question. So we'll just take it from the top. She wants to know if they put their Martian newspaper on a Web site, can they just say the name of the Web site and let the people who go onto that Web site try to find all the articles and graphics in there, or how should they go about making it easy?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Well, menus are a great thing and if I could get Sherri to bring up the Daily Cyberspace Round-up, you might take a look at that

Picture of Cyberspace Roundup Web page.

and you can see that we have different categories up there at the top and those are menu items.

It's always good to organize your paper so that it makes it easy for people to find, and you want that kind of organization to be what we call intuitive. That means it is really obvious to the person coming into the paper or the Web site, where they should go to find what they're looking for.

That's really the important thing. If you look at a regular newspaper,

Kelly speaking on screen.

a printed newspaper on the ground, you'll see that there is the front page, the main section has all the top news that's going on so that you can collect it all there.

Then you've got a local section where the latest local information is and then you have a sports section, you have a business section, you have classified ads for people that want to sell and buy things, and it's all categorized.

That's all for a reason. That's to make it easy for people to find what they're looking for. You want to come up with the different categories for your newspaper from Mars that explain the various topics. You might want to think about subject lines such as daily life, the scientific goals, transportation, robotic help. Those kinds of things may be some of the keys that you're doing.

Maybe you're searching for life on Mars. Maybe that is going to be one of your key topics and you want to have a special section for that, but just make sure that it's something that when somebody comes to that Web site and they look at the menu they say, I want to look for pictures. Maybe you want to have a pictures category so that people can go there, or maybe you want to have a multi-media category so they know that's where the pictures and the movies all are located, and maybe you're going to have some audio files too.

There's different ways to do that and another important aspect that is that you can cross index things. You can have down the left side an index system that looks at things in one way, like the type of media it is, photos versus movies versus text, and then on top versus on the subject lines. The subjects would be, you know, getting to Mars, living on Mars, working with robots on Mars, etc., and those things are going to cross connect so that the menu items here and the menu items here all connect in the middle and you're getting all to the same general pot of gold, but it gives you two different ways to get at it.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: That's some very helpful information, Kelly, thank you. The second part of Amy's question is, is there a limit to the number of pictures and graphics you should use?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: You're really only limited by the space you have available on your server. Now where I find the limits more important is in the sizes of the individual files, and that's because it takes time to download those files and you have to think about your end user when you're thinking about that.

Today you guys are probably using a fairly high speed connection on the Internet to go through this chat, but if you go in from home if you haven't scaled up to the new really fast cable modems and the like or satellite modems, you're probably coming in at about 56000 kilobytes a second and that's fairly slow for big files like movie files and videos, and so you want to make those very small.

For example, we have a section on the Space Flight Web site where you can ask questions of the astronauts when they're on orbit. Well, when we send the instructions up to the crew members on orbit with your question, we ask them when they call down the answer we say, please when you answer a question state the name of the questioner, and if they're a school age kid, they like to have their ages listed, say where they're from, repeat the question, and then give your answer and do it in a very concise or to the point way.

We ask them to try and keep their answers under a minute because when you digitize those audio files that minutes worth of audio becomes a lot of bytes and it takes a while for that to download.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: Well, Jeffrey wants to know what are the newest trends you are seeing in print and electronic media.

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Gosh, well I guess really the newest trend in print and electronic media is having print media on electronically. I mean these days you can get the newspaper, the whole newspaper right on line when you used to have to have it delivered to your door.

There are some issues related to that in that it's some time a little harder. You don't catch, when you browse a written newspaper, it's pretty easy to have a story catch your eye, but on bigger sites like CNN.com or WashingtonPost.com, for example, there is so much there and you've got to really look through those menu systems to see what's going on.

I would say those are some of the latest trends. Integrating the multi-media aspects into your newspaper is also a really important trend. It's really neat to be able to go to a news story about a particular subject and read the story and then say there's a quote in the story of an individual like an astronaut talking about what they're doing, you can click on the picture and go actually see and hear them giving an answer to that question. That lends a really personal aspect to the story which you can't get on just a printed story.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Thank you. Ralph is a 5th grade student and he wants to know, by the time we get to Mars do you think a journalist will be allowed to go?

Kelly: I sure hope so, and I hope I'm the one going.

Kelly speaking on screen.

I would really love to go do something like that. They're been some movies even made specifically about having journalists go along as a part of the crew. That is certainly a possibility, but I think more likely what you're going to see is you're going to see crew members or a crew member who have been trained in how to relay their experiences most effectively with the folks on the ground. When we first start sending people to Mars they're going to have to be a very multi-faceted crew. Each one of them is going to have to be experts in a number of different areas, and you're not going to really be able to afford to send somebody who is just a journalist for that kind of thing. It's going to have to be somebody who's doing the journalism on the side.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: Isabelle is in Mrs. Dees 5th grade class in Maryland, and they want to know how long can people live in a biosphere on Mars without suffering ill effects, and do we have that information yet?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Well, we don't have all that information yet. I have worked with the people who are studying a lot of that here at Johnson Space Center and they're learning more and more as we have the folks on the International Space Station studied by scientists and doctors looking at the effects of long duration space flight, but on Mars in general there are some things that we're just not exactly sure about.

Some of the robotic probes that Chris Culbert was talking about in a previous Web cast are helping to bring us a lot more information about what the environment on Mars is like. We know that it's very cold. We know that it's primarily a carbon dioxide atmosphere. We so far haven't found any running water,

Picture of Mars.

but we think we have seen some evidence of running water and we're hoping that you can look for that.

Then the radiation environment is something that's very important

Back to Kelly.

because Mars' atmosphere is very thin and on Earth the atmosphere here is what protects us from a lot of the harmful radiation. So you've got to be very careful about watching out for that because those are the kind of things that can really make you sick. It takes six months to get there and six months to get back at minimum, and you can't afford to have people getting really sick from things that you can prevent. There's no way that you can prevent everything, and you're going to have to have health care systems built in so that you can take care of most of the foreseeable things that happen to us. The things from the common cold to getting a bad case of the flu to having stomach trouble because something you ate bothered you or even having emergencies like a heart attack and appendicitis that you’d have to deal with.

They're looking at all those things but what you want to do is try and predict what the likelihood of those kinds of things are. Plan for and be able to respond in those situations, and try to minimize the risks of other kinds of things by making adequate protection for the space vehicle that's traveling there, making sure that your biodome that you're living in on the planet can protect you from that kind of thing. You also want to be able to use the natural resources of the planet to help protect you.

A lot of the studies have shown that the best way to protect against radiation is to put soil over your shelters because that's a good way to do it.

A way to protect on the trip out and back is by insulating with water because hydrogen is one of the best known insulators against the harmful radiation that's in outer space.

So some of the engine designs that are going on here in Houston, one of the astronauts, Frank [inaudible] a whole lab looking at advanced propulsion, and he's looking at a propulsion type that might be fueled by liquid hydrogen and so they're building living quarters in the space ship on the inside and all of the fuel or hydrogen and putting it in tanks that are all around the outside to protect then on the way.

You need to do those kinds of things for both the trip out and back and for the period you're going to be on the ground on Mars.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: For those of you just joining us, we are broadcasting live from the Johnson Space Center, talking to you about your Design Challenge #3 of creating an electronic newsletter in conjunction with Space Day. The next question we have, Kelly, is Ann wants to know if you think all reporters have their own style and can comedy be a part of news writing?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: If you're me it can be. You've got to be careful how you use things like comedy because people can get very upset if they are the brunt of your joke. In general, yes there are a lot of different styles and a lot of it depends on the kind of story that you're covering. Human nature features about people themselves are one of the most flexible types of stories. When you're doing hard news stories you kind of got to stick to the facts and make sure that you get all the facts in, you make it very understandable and you get the main points across. Those seven main questions: who, what, where, why, when, how and how much. You've got to get all those answers in and so you don't have a lot of room for being flowery.

But when you're doing personality profiles or doing more in depth stories about people in groups, that's when you can really shine and use your style.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Jade is a student from Texas and wants to know if you think the Internet will ever be too overloaded to handle all the information that we're putting on it?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: If we don't continue to do some upgrading, yes it will. We're already starting to tax the Internet systems that have been developed and NASA in particular is helping in the work for a next generation Internet that should speed the transmission of the electronic information all around the world, and then you've also got to look ahead to when every thing isn't on this world to where you've got mechanisms to relay data throughout space from Mars, the Moon, space stations, space shuttles and be able to interconnect all of that in one big actually space Internet.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Michelle from Mrs. Carlson's class out in California wants to know what kind of things that still need to be developed in order for us to live and work on the surface of Mars?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: There's a guy named Mark Craig who is one of the directors at the Stennis Space Center, one of the ten NASA centers Sherri mentioned at the start of this Web cast. They used to show a great chart when he was working on Mars exploration and that was a chart that showed a Conestoga wagon, the kind that they used to go from the east coast of the United States across to the west coast, or to the prairie in between to set up their homestead and whatnot. This chart was really funny because it showed that if we had had to carry everything with us like we did to the moon when we went from the west coast to the east coast, we wouldn't be there yet because the important thing there was that people were able to use the natural resources along the way.

That's one of the key aspects to getting to Mars and living there. It's being able to use the natural resources there.

There was an experiment on a Mars spacecraft that was supposed to be going up there now but we had some setbacks and it's on hold temporarily called MISER. That stands for Mars In Situ] Resource Utilization. In situ means, on the site the local resources. The idea there was to say if you could make oxygen out of Martian atmosphere, because while there is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for the most part, part of carbon dioxide there's oxygen there.

Graphic of astronauts on Mars.

So they were using a particular mechanism to change some of that and distill out the oxygen from that.

Back to Kelly.

Also there is a potential to get methane from the soil on Mars, and that could potentially be a fuel, and for any kind of a rocket fuel you have to have the fuel and you have to have the oxidizer or the, in other words for a fire to burn it has to have air. Well, when you're talking about rockets they use oxidizers which are highly concentrated things like liquid oxygen and so that experiment was designed to take the resources on Mars and make it possible to essentially distill those down into something we could use to get back. So that the only fuel you had to take to Mars was the fuel that it was going to take you to actually get there.

Then once you got there you had the fuel right there at your fingertips and you could make more as you needed it, for your needs as you were living on Mars, and then you could also start filling up the tanks so that when it got time to come home you'd have full tanks to come back up to orbit and then back to Earth.

So that's one of the most important aspects. We've already gone over the radiation aspects. You had a previous chat about the human factors. You have to make things that are easy for people to use. Just the way you need to make your online newspaper easy for people to use here on earth, we've got to make the tools and equipment and systems for the Mars habitation modules and the spacecraft easy for those people to use so that they can get their jobs done.

Sherry speaking on screen.

Sherri: Looks like Q.T. is planning on going to school and becoming a journalist, and she wants to know how long does it take to get a journalism degree?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Generally if you're talking about college it takes about four years, unless you're me and it took six because I just hated to rush a good thing.

Seriously, I worked at the newspaper full time the whole time I went to college and so that's why it took me a couple of extra years to go through. So you have to figure those kinds of things in. In general you can get a journalism degree in four years.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Patty writes in and wants to know, when does an on-line newspaper depart from being journalism and become a video production, or is there no difference?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: That's one of the neat things about on-line newspaper is they're just text, they're not just video, they're not just audio. They're really multi-media, and that's why the Internet is so much different than the other mediums and why I think it's so popular, is because you can wrap all those things together and tell different parts of the story that no one media can tell. You can wrap those all together and put out a more complete story through the Internet.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Jessie is a student from Bethel, Maine, and wants to know is it okay to write about things that you might have to picture in your head? I can imagine the students are having to do a lot of imagining of what living and working on Mars might be.

Kelly: In your particular challenge I think the answer is yes.

Kelly speaking on screen.

As long as you take the initial basis for that on something you studied. I mean you can imagine that you might find some life buried in a cave on Mars, and it's okay to imagine that and write about that as if it were real and describe it carefully because that's something they very well might find up there. We just don't know yet.

Before you do that you should probably take a look at some studies that have been done and what people theorize might be the kind of life you'd find in that kind of environment so that you're not too off the mark. There's very little chance that we're going to find little green men on Mars, however, we might find something that's possibly silicon based life form or that has particular respiratory systems that are developed to use the carbon dioxide in extremely cold temperatures on Mars.

Also look at the gravity on Mars. It's about a third of what it is here on Earth, and so there's a good chance that what you might is really tall things if they ended up being plants or animals or whatever, or they might be more likely to be something like a fungus or a mold that you'd find.

So look up, get a little bit of basis in scientific fact or theory and then go out and embellish that when you're writing about those kinds of things.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Kathy is a student from Mrs. Kuryk's 5th grade class in Bethel, Maine. She wants to know which category is most important, and I think we were talking about the different categories of the menus earlier, living and working in space, robotics, all that sort of thing. Which one do you think would be most important to highlight?

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: For me the most important things to highlight would be day-to-day life for one thing. People here on the ground want to participate vicariously. Vicariously means they can't really be there and doing it but they're following along like they're looking over your shoulder. So I think that is some of the stuff that's really very important.

In other words you need to find ways to get your visitors or viewers or readers to participate in the excitement of the adventure that you're going through.

A good example of that is, is on the NASA Human Space Flight Web, one of our most popular features is something we call the Sky Watch Applet. A good friend of mine, Bill Tracy, wrote this program in his spare time. He's one of the guys that works in Mission Control and figures out exactly where the space shuttle and space station are and exactly where they're going to be based on particular plans and how we're going to fire the rockets on the space shuttle.

He wrote this program and it lets people look up their hometown and say, okay, this is my home town, when can I go see the space station as it goes over head of the planet, over my backyard. That's depends not only on exactly where the space station is in relation to where the backyard is, it also depends on it being dark enough outside that you could see the reflection of the sun on the space station and that the sun's rays are hitting the space station so that it can reflect them. That little program will actually give you up to the second prediction of when you can go out in your backyard at night and look up and see the space station, space shuttle.

Well that's so popular because it gives people an opportunity here on the ground, they're not actually up there on the shuttle or the space station, to pretend like they are or to actually see the physical manifestation of what they're interested in.

You might want to think about some way to mount a helmet cam on your space suit and down link the pictures of you going over, traversing over the sand dunes on the Martian surface. Or if you're going to do some climbing up one of the steep cliffs on Mars you might want to have a helmet cam that shows that kind of thing, and if not have it live, at least have some video clips so that people can see from your vantage point how that might look. That's going to help them experience the situation.

Maybe you're going to set up a big reflector dish or something on Mars to let people see where your base is. You want to have, you're going to have to track what the rotation of Mars is so that you can predict when people on Earth will be able to see that. Maybe that's what you do and you put up predictions. Here you can see our base reflecting as a little light on the surface of Mars with your telescope if you look at this particular time. Those kinds of interactive participations are what make the Internet and those kinds of papers the most exciting.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Now Kelly, you just can't tell all of us that we can find out how to see the station or the shuttle in our backyard without telling us how to get there. Is it linked off the space flight Web page?

Kelly: It is in deed. If you go to the main SpaceFlight.NASA.gov page,

Picture of SpaceFlight Web page.

you click on the real time data section and then you'll see, Sightings. From that you'll be able to choose from either, there's text space sighting lists where you can just go look up your sightings opportunities in a table, or you can see right there in the middle real big as life, the sky watch application. You click on Start Java Applet and it'll start this little program. It takes a couple of minutes to get initialized, especially the first time that you log-on to it, but then you just fill in a couple of data fields, say, pick your home town or if you're out in the boondocks you can actually put in your exact latitude and longitude. Those are the X, Y coordinates for where you are on the planet.

Sherri and Kelly on screen.

Then go to Sky Watch and it will go predict a list of sightings that tell you what time to be looking for it, what elevation over the horizon to be looking for it, and it'll even let you print out a map of the night sky with a star constellation and the track of the space station or the space shuttle as they're going over head so you can say, oh, it's going to be right over the big digger and by golly, it'll be there.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Wow, that's amazing. Okay, Brian is a 5th grader in Maryland. He wants to know if electronic newspapers look any different from paper newspapers?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Yes, they generally do look different from newspaper, and that's because of the size and shape of the computer screen that you're using. Also, the fact that you can scroll on this screen. When you get a regular TV picture you've just got that little square and that's as much real estate as you've got to work with.

In a newspaper you've got whatever size paper you're printing on and that's all you've got to work with. In an Internet paper you've got the potential to go ahead and scroll up and down and side to side. Now my experience is people don't like to scroll side to side a whole lot and they will only take so much up and down scrolling before they get tired of it. So you want to make your stories compartmentalized and your features compartmentalized so that they can see the basics of what you're trying to do, and if we could see the front page of the space flight side I'd appreciate it.

We broke that down into the four major quadrants that we thought were really important.

Picture of NASA Human Spaceflight Web page.

Could you go ahead back to the first page if I hit Home. There's a little house up in the upper left hand corner. Oops, you hit the browser home and we need to go to the space flight home. We'll just describe it.

There's a little white house in the blue, there you go. All right, we've developed, broken this into four main quadrants. The left side is about the space shuttle mission, and right side is about the space station mission, the lower left side is about living in space, and the lower right side is about the latest news. So that's how we've chosen on the Space Flight Web to break it up into what we thought the major categories or interest.

One of the keys to doing that is to follow along with your users. You can get detailed statistics on your Web site newspaper running some readily available applications

Back to Kelly.

and you can follow along and find out what people go to first or what people use the most. That's how we know that the Sky Watch application is one of the most desired things to go to. So by following on and give the users what they want, you're going to have a more popular product.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: I just want to remind everyone we have about 14 minutes left. Please submit your last minute questions so we can make sure and answer those for you here today.

Our next question comes from Brian and he wants to know for his project, should he write in the present or think about the future or can he just use his imagination and think about whatever?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: That kind of depends on how you're going to go about it. If you want to pretend like it's happening right now, then I would write present tense. If you are going to pretend like it's something that you're writing down as a report, you can write it in past tense but then have some of the things in present tense, like the headlines. Because you want things to be exciting. That's the general rule the regular newspapers use is you write most stories in past tense because you're reporting on something that has already happened or you're reporting about something that's going to happen based on information that you received about things that already happened.

But the headlines they try and get people interested in reading the story, and one of the best ways to do that is to make those, use very active verbs and to use them in present tense. So that's how I would recommend doing the newspaper.

If you're looking at something that you are planning on doing, say you're writing a story about the Mars walk that you're going to plan for next week. Then it's okay to write future tense and say, we're going to go do this tomorrow and here's the steps that we're going to have to take to get ready for it, and here's what we expect to encounter when we're going to have it happen.

Of course you've got to kind of depend on the story. It depends on what you're working on.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Howard from Oklahoma has a great question. He wants to know how up to date should you keep your electronic newspaper? Can it be a day behind or do you need to keep it up to date every hour? What do you recommend, Kelly?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: Well, you know, it depends on how many users you're going to have and how highly accessed your site's going to be. Places like CNN.com, they update on a continuous basis. They have a huge staff to go off and do that, and they do a great job of it.

For your group, you've got to imagine yourself as being part of a small team that rode in a space craft for six months to get to Mars and have a lot of other important work to do on Mars. I would recommend that you really have at most a daily update kind of thing because you're going to be so busy doing other things you're not going to have time to update it hourly unless you want to pretend that you've got a compressed time scale and that you're really covering a whole lot more in the time period that is a lot smaller than you really would have in real time.

So for real purposes for your challenge here I would recommend doing it say at the end of the day update, and that after you get done with all your hard work exploring the Martian surface and doing scientific research and then taking care of all the day-to-day tasks you're going to have just to stay alive, you're going to have maybe half an hour, an hour at the most that you can devote to that kind of a thing. So about a daily update about that much is going to be plenty.

Sherri and Kelly on screen.

Sherri: Kelly, do you have any general tips for all the students out there working on creating their electronic newsletter in whatever form it may be that we haven't touched on such as, we've talked about writing styles and types of stories and how to set it up, make it user friendly. Are there any other tips you can give us?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: You bet. One of the ones I would start out with is know who your audience is right from the start. That's really, really important. If you're expecting your newspaper to be read by kids in your age group, which I think for this Web cast is 4th grade through 8th grade, you're going to write differently than if you were going to be writing that to a bunch of rocket scientists back home. So you have to, right in the start, establish who you are intending your stuff to be read by.

We try to do that on the Space Flight Web by making it start off at a grade level that's about the grade level we're talking about here so that just about anybody can understand what we're talking about.

Then as you go farther and deeper into the site and learning more about the activities that are going on in the shuttle and the station and then in Mars research, the more detail you can get into and the higher levels of English and the like that you can have.

Also, keep in mind the technological maturity of your audience. Things like the bandwidth, the speed of the connection that you expect them to be using. You've got to keep those in perspective because if you have all of these wonderful video and audio files that it takes people three days to download, they may be great files but nobody's going to see them because they're not going to have the time to down, they're not going to take the time to download and get them.

Those, I think, are really the two top things. The other thing is simplicity is really important. I kind of go with, I think it was Miss Gaddes that asked the question, that you don't have to use all the bells and whistles. What you really need to do is pick the ones, the topics or the items that really lend themselves to those kinds of things and be very limited in your use of them. Make sure that you're really adding some value by adding those bells and whistles, otherwise the simplest and the easiest to get to and the easiest to understand is probably your best avenue.

Back to Sherri.

Sherri: Jessie from Bethel, Maine, looks like he's trying to do some more or this imaginary work in trying to write about living on Mars. He wants to know, how do you picture the houses and habitation modules on Mars?

Back to Kelly.

Kelly: I really picked them probably as something that's going to be inflatable, because of the volume that it takes.

Picture of graphic of habitation.

You want something to be able to expand to give you a lot of useable volume on the surface of Mars because you're not going to be able to actually go outside on your own without a space suit and do anything. So it's not like you're going to have any room to move around. Us humans, as I like to say, need a little bit of elbow room or else we'll go stir crazy. So one of the best ways to do that when you've got, you know it costs a lot of money to send things into orbit and that's the first step to getting to Mars.

Then it's going to cost a lot of money to safely get them down to the surface, and so you're going to be limited in the amount of weight that you can take down. One way to get the most out of that weight is to have things be collapsible and expandable, and of course to give yourself that elbow room you're going to need atmosphere to live in that elbow room, so the best way to go about doing that is to expand it so that you use the actual air and the air pressure from inside, remember the pressure is lower outside in the Martian atmosphere as well, to hold the sturdiness of the structure.

Now you're going to have to be careful about the materials you pick to make those structures from because they've got to protect you from things like wind storms, they've got to insulate you from the extreme cold of the planet. They've got to protect you from the radiation on the planet surface.

Graphic of inflatable sphere habitation on Mars.

You can use the natural resources that we discussed. Maybe have the initial living quarters be an inflatable sphere that will protect you from the radiation environment until you've got time to use your excavating equipment which you hopefully will have, to dig up a bunch of Martian soil and pile it on top and help be the protection for you.

Back to Kelly.

So those are the kind of things that I suspect you're going to be living, and of course you're going to have to have vestibules and things so that you can have airlocks, because you're going to want to go outside and you're going to want to be able to do that fairly quickly and easily.

You're also going to have to remember that you're going to have to protect against things like dust. There's a lot of wind and dust that blows around on the Martian surface and we're just now learning to characterize that through some of these robotic probes. You're going to want to make sure that in that airlock where you get into your space suit and get ready to go out that when you come back in you’ve got a good mechanism for cleaning off the space suits so you're not bringing all that dust and stuff back into where you're having to live and work and eat and drink,

Graphic of rovers on Mars.

because I got a sneaking suspicion that the dust on Mars is going to taste just about as gritty as the dust on Earth does and I always hate getting that grit in my water.

Sherri speaking on screen.

Sherri: Michelle from Mrs. Carlson's class out in California wants to know if people lived on Mars what kind of tests would they be running out there?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Well, they'd be looking at the Martian environment and trying to do a number of things. Number one, I think the top thing they're going to be trying to do is find some evidence of past or present life on Mars.

So they're going to be doing things like soil samples, they'll use core sampling drills to take very deep samples of the soil on Earth and see the different layers and learn a little bit about how the planet has evolved to its current state. Same way you can do here on the Earth. You can take a core sample in different places on the planet and learn about how that particular area of the Earth has evolved over the millennium. They're going to be doing that.

They're going to be looking throughout those different strata in the samples to see if they can find where past life might be. We suspect that there may have been some bacterial life that we've seen in meteorites here on the Earth that have been done by some really innovative researchers here at the Johnson Space Center, and you want to be able to try and prove that those things actually came from Mars because just because they're on that meteorite that we found here that we believe that meteorite is from Mars doesn't necessarily mean that the actual old life forms found on there are from Mars. So they're going to try and prove that.

They're also going to be looking for things like water, which would be the building blocks for life on Mars, and also a very important needed commodity. You're going to want to be doing research on how to take the other existing resources like the atmosphere, like the soil on Mars, and to turn those into resources that you can use to live on the planet and to get back.

I think those are going to be the main kinds of things they'll be looking for.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: Mike, I want to address your question. You've already been wanting to know if you could submit your newspaper for the contest just by providing your Web site address? The answer is no. I've also seen a lot of other very technical questions that you guys have for us. Just want to remind you that you need to check the requirements on the Space Day Web site which again is www.spaceday.com. Also want to remind you that we have just a few minutes left so if you want to submit that last minute question we'll be happy to take it.

Matt wants to know, Kelly, how long do you think it would take to inhabit maybe ten miles on Mars?

Kelly: Oh, gosh, you're talking a lot of years from now, right now,

Kelly speaking on screen.

because the best estimates are that if we got the call to go to Mars right now it would still take us about ten years just to get the first humans there. That's just going to be a initial exploratory mission probably.

It all depends on how you, how we decide as humans on Earth to attack going to Mars. There are some who say that it doesn't make sense to send just an exploratory mission like we sent to the Moon because it takes too long to get back and forth. Most folks say that we ought to do is we ought to plan out an all out settlement plan and have a set of rotating vehicles that stay on orbit and just keep going back and forth from a space station or a lunar station and Mars, continually ferrying supplies and humans back out there. Those people then would be building up a Mars base and they would never intend to come back to Earth. They would intend to be settling Mars similar to the people that pioneered from the East Coast of America out to Kansas and Oklahoma and out to the West Coast. They never intended to go back to the East coast. They intended to make a new life for themselves in a new place.

So it depends on how we attack that.

Sherri and Kelly shown on screen.

Sherri: I want to remind everyone that your project deadline is March 1 and that the last final big Web chat is on May 2, so please come back and join us for that.

We're about out of time today so a few things I want to wrap up here. If you were not able to have your question answered today, we weren't able to get to all of them, there will be an FAQ page on the Quest Web site and Lori has posted that inside the chat room so you can see the Web address for that and find out the most frequently asked questions, perhaps get your question answered.

Also, if you missed some details that you want to go back and review more carefully, this hour long broadcast will be archived on the Quest Web page and you can also go back and review that, perhaps taking a few more detailed notes on what Kelly has provided us here today with information.

Well, on behalf of the Distance Learning Outpost here at Johnson Space Center and Quest at Ames Research Center, we are very glad to have had you join us today. Kelly, we want to thank you again for your expertise and the time you've spent with us here today. Do you have any final closing comments for our 4th through 8th grade Challenge students out there?

Kelly speaking on screen.

Kelly: Just that you're welcomed to you all for letting me participate in, it's been a lot of fun, and a thank you to all of you folks out there in Internet land who are watching this and interested in this subject. I think the expansion of the human race off of this planet Earth is a very noble goal and something that we as a species really need to do in order to ensure our survival over the long term of this universe. In other to do that I urge you guys to keep studying your science, your math, and learn a little about a lot of subjects so that when it comes your turn to be the ones going to Mars and making this newspaper, that you do a great job of it.

Sherri and Kelly on screen.

Sherri: Well, I couldn't agree with you more, Kelly. Well, that wraps up our time today. Thank you again for joining us. Come back and join us for the May 2 Web cast. We hope you have a wonderful day. So long from Johnson Space Center.

Kelly: Bye.


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