FRANKLIN: Welcome to NASA EDGE.
BLAIR: An inside and outside look at all things NASA.
CHRIS: We’re here at the Escape Center located at the European Space Research and Technology Center in Noordwijk, Netherlands.
FRANKLIN: For Mission X 2013.
BLAIR: Behind us, students from around the world will participate in activities that will help them train like an astronaut.
FRANKLIN: Throughout this show, we’ll talk to members of the Mission X working group as they hold their international closing event, here at ESTEC.
CHRIS: And finally, we’ll get a sneak peak at Mission X 2014.
BLAIR: Maybe we’ll be on Mars.
FRANKLIN: Let’s get this show started.
CHRIS: We’re here at ESTEC celebrating the international closing event for 2013. Tell us the objective of the international closing event.
NIGEL: I should be welcoming you to ESTEC, first of all. The objectives of this closing event are twofold. First and foremost is the serious part, and then there is a much more fun part, which I’m looking forward to. The serious part is where the Mission X working group and all the points of contact come together, they report on how 2013 went. We evaluated the issues, the problems, and how to circumvent those, and how to improve the program. I think it’s very important that we relay the information to each other. The fun part starts a little bit later tonight where we have children from several nations who participate in Mission X come over to ESTEC. We’ve got a whole host of activities set up for them. They get, first of all, to meet each other, which is very important. There is no space program that is national level anymore. International cooperation is super important. I think that message is very clear in Mission X as well. They will come here. They’ll do some sports activities together. They’ll meet some astronauts. They’ll get to ask the astronaut questions. And at the end of it all, we’ll have a beautiful barbeque in the sunshine on a Dutch beach.
NIGEL: Thank you, everyone.
[Clapping and cheering]
LAURIE: Mission X is an international health and fitness challenge designed for students 8 to 12 years old. It’s to promote health and fitness, a healthier lifestyle, and also to use the excitement of space exploration.
CHRIS: What new countries have you added to the 2013 group?
LAURIE: In 2012, we had 15 countries. In 2013, we added seven new countries. We added Denmark, Norway, Russia, Indonesia, Sweden, Kazakhstan, and the Republic of Ireland.
CHRIS: That’s a good selection of countries.
LAURIE: That’s quite a bit. Yeah.
CHRIS: Take us through the current state of the program.
LAURIE: The program, we started the pilot in 2011. It was so successful that we continued it, for what we call the multi-year campaign, and that’s three years, so, 2012, 13, and 14. Right now, we just finished the 2013 challenge, so we’re in the post challenge phase but right after that we get ready for the pre-challenge for 2014.
CHRIS: What was challenge that the kids had to do during the year?
LAURIE: The challenge for the kids is to live a healthier lifestyle. The challenge is January through March and teams from around the world do the Mission X activities. There are 14 physical and 4 science activities. As the teams complete the activities, they upload points to the website. All of the points from all of the teams around the world help Astro Charlie walk to the moon.
CHRIS: Astro Charlie?
LAURIE: Astro Charlie, he’s our mascot.
CHRIS: How did you come up with Astro Charlie? Where did that name come from?
LAURIE: Well, NASA’s administrator, Charlie Bolden.
CHRIS: There you go.
LAURIE: So, Astro Charlie.
CHRIS: You said there are four Science lessons?
CHRIS: That’s in the classroom. Then you have activities outside the classroom?
LAURIE: Actually, Mission X is extremely flexible. You can do it in the classrooms. So, yes, the science activities will be in the Science classroom and the physical activities will be in a gym class but you can also do it outside of school. We have after school venues that do the activities. We also have Special Olympics and day service providers doing the activities and participating in Mission X.
CHRIS: It sounds like Mission X is a great program to adapt to the state standards or if it’s an international country, adopting it to their educational model.
LAURIE: Yes, exactly. And we have to be because even within the United States there are so many different standards and then you go global and it makes it even more difficult but the feedback we hear is that the activities are written and developed well enough that they are easily adaptable.
CHRIS: How challenging are the physical activities? Have you done them all yourself?
LAURIE: Oh, yeah. They’re a lot of fun.
FRANKLIN: How have the students in the U.S. benefited from the Mission X program?
NUBIA: We had about 1,500 children participate this year in Mission X. We had five different states and Puerto Rico participate. These children were able to have pen pals abroad. And they were able to communicate and share history that they had with each other. They were able to share the activities of Mission X and they actually created friendship bonds from abroad. Other highlights have been, for example, we have extended our activities for the unique needs. That will reach even a larger population within the USA and will hopefully extend abroad as well.
RAFAEL: We have the year, especially, a blind student who was participating. His school was providing constructing the whole structure around him, in order to allow him to implement the mission. It was interesting to see this deploy of help. I compare this student with one of the blind American mountain climbers.
FRANKLIN: I believe you’re talking about Erik Weihenmayer.
RAFAEL: Yes, he is an impressive person. He has very good training but he has also had a good support structure around him, a group of people that believe that he has the capabilities and he has been able to take the risk.
HEATHER: What we’re looking at particularly is finding enthusiastic teachers who really want to drive the program and share their love of space with the students. For us, I think the big ingredient for the UK success has been finding amazing teachers who want to really use the space context and the astronaut training resources to inspire their kids. From the teacher’s enthusiasm, the kids have really been inspired. From the first schools that got involved, they liked it so much they got involved the second year and then the third year. They’ve actually changed the program. They’ve adapted the program to see the different years going through. Lots of the schools said they really benefitted from the PE activities and the nutrition activities. Some of the kids have said it has changed the way they choose their food and the way they actually hydrate themselves as well, so drinking a lot more water.
JASPER: Space is always so attractive to kids. For us, it’s an excellent way to communicate the message of Science, of technology, of space. And that’s one of the main purposes of Netherland space office; to get more kids involved in Science, in technology, in space because we really believe the space pioneers of tomorrow are sitting in the classroom today.
BLAIR: And they also get the benefit of learning about health and fitness along the way.
JASPER: Exactly. That’s also a great message to communicate. And also, what I really like about Mission X is the international flavor because we are living on the spaceship, Earth, actually with all nationalities. It’s so important for kids to realize that. Mission X is an excellent way to build that awareness.
LADY: Go Mission X!
JASPER: The real highlight was the kickoff event because we had one challenge. We didn’t have an inflight call with the ISS, which was the most attractive part in the other years.
BLAIR: They didn’t answer my calls either.
JASPER: We had to find a solution. We decided together with our Japanese colleagues to set up an interplanetary call from the Netherlands to Tokyo. Here in the Netherlands, we had our astronaut, André Kuipers, surrounded with 100 enthusiastic kids. In Tokyo, they had the Japanese astronaut, Chiaki Mukai, surrounded by 100 Japanese kids. We had a really fun conversation, of course, with translators. We talked about space but we also talked about food in Japan, food in the Netherlands. What do you do in your free time? It was really fun for the kids, and of course, for us.
CHRIS: A lot of the activities that the students are participating in the program are very similar to how you train when you go up in space.
ANDRÉ: Yes. Yes, there are specific things that we have to add in space because certain bones. You lose more because we don’t have gravity. If you normally stand, you’re already using muscles.
ANDRÉ: In space, we don’t have that. We have to focus a lot on those bones, and those muscles especially but you also need a general cardiovascular. That’s why we use the bicycling for example. You have to train your heart to pump well and then it becomes strong.
CHRIS: You were in space for 6 ½ months, which is a lot longer than a normal, back then Shuttle flight, which was about two weeks.
ANDRÉ: Yeah, that’s right.
CHRIS: We don’t really have many data points beyond 6 ½ months. So, as we venture off to maybe a near-Earth asteroid or Mars, it’s going to be even more critical to figure out how the human body adapts in that reduced gravity environment.
ANDRÉ: Yeah, that’s a big difference between short and long flights. My first flight was 11 days, a short flight. I had some problems coming back but not as bad as after 6 months.
CHRIS: What was probably one of the hardest things you had to adapt to when you returned from Station?
ANDRÉ: Well, first of all, you get very dizzy and nauseated. You become Earth sick. Instead of seasick, you become Earth sick. So, when you move your head, it’s like your whole world is coming on a elastic band behind or something like that. You have to be very careful with every head move you make. Lying down on a couch, it was like I was tumbling all over, head over heels. Also, you have a tendency to faint. Your blood pressure reflexes, which are normally working if you stand up, didn’t work for half a year. You would get very dizzy and faint. You’d get a fluid infusion in the plane back, and, of course, I had muscle ache, 3 months of muscle ache. Because we run in space, we do the bicycling but a lot of muscles you don’t use. I had pain in my ankles. I thought why do I have pain in my ankles? It’s because you don’t balance anymore.
ANDRÉ: All these little muscles…
CHRIS: You’re stabilizer muscles don’t work.
ANDRÉ: Yeah, it was interesting. I knew this from my colleagues that told me to be prepared for months of muscle ache. It was true.
CHRIS: The same goes for your bones too?
ANDRÉ: Yeah, the bones. That’s the longest recovery process. Actually, the bone loss continues a little bit after you’re back because there’s a balance between cells; cells that make bone and cells that dissolve bone. It continues to be on the wrong side at first but you will slowly recover. I think bone loss is the most important thing and then we have a radiation problem, of course. We have to be sure that people don’t get too much radiation.
BLAIR: We’re here at ESTEC in the Netherlands where we’ve been going through all the Mission X activities with many students today. We’re here with Sven. Sven, you participated in some of the activities today. What was the most challenging activity that you went through today?
SVEN: The most challenging I still think that is the spider web because you have to go through the web with lines without touching the lines. The hardest was when you’re only allowed to go once through a hole.
FRANKLIN: What has been the most challenging exercise that you’ve completed.
STUDENT: I don’t know, maybe the part of the swimming pool. I liked it so much. It was pretty awesome.
FRANKLIN: What was awesome and challenging about the swimming pool?
STUDENT: We learned how to float in the water. We were simulating the gravity in space.
BLAIR: Was that the most fun as well or what was the most fun activity?
STUDENT: It was very funny to interact with each other. For example, the exercise with the skateboard, we jumped on the skateboard and flew to the pieces of the puzzle and bring them back. So we had to interact with each other and to communicate. This was also one of my favorite exercises.
BLAIR: That’s a great one because you do have to figure out how you’re going to work with your teammates in order to complete the task. Just like astronauts, it’s a great thing to do.
BLAIR: How do you like working with all the kids from the different countries?
STUDENT: Well, it’s a good experience that I wouldn’t usually have because in the United Kingdom, we don’t generally get that many foreign people from where I am from. And also, if I did end up being at the International Space Station then there’s plenty of people from different countries there. I guess it’d be good practice.
FRANKLIN: You have to be interested in Science and Engineering to be an astronaut. Which one are you interested in?
STUDENT: I kind of like Science because I like all sorts of experiments and stuff like that.
FRANKLIN: So, while you were training to be an astronaut, which exercise was the most challenging to you?
STUDENT: The most challenging would probably be the coming down from the atmosphere because I don’t really like rides and things like that. So, perhaps the gyroball and things like that are examples of what coming back to Earth would be like. I don’t really like the falls that you come back to Earth with.
FRANKLIN: Did you get a little queasy or we’re you okay? Some people got a little light headed.
STUDENT: Well, I was quite all right but I’d rather not go in it, to be completely honest.
FRANKLIN: Now, you know if you want to be an astronaut you would have to do that over, and over, and over, and over again.
STUDENT: Yeah. Well, I suppose you have to do things you don’t like to get the job you would like to do.
FRANKLIN: Good thought. That’s a good way to think about it.
FRANKLIN: What are some things that you know the students learned today while training like an astronaut that they can take with them in the future to help them to be better athletes, even better scientists or maybe an astronaut?
STUDENT: I think just the message of keep persevering. The more you practice, the more you’ll get better. You shouldn’t just try the easy things. You should challenge yourself because that will make you much better all around.
FRANKLIN: What other of the exercises was challenging to you?
STUDENT: The communication one was particularly challenging because it was people with different languages and understanding their method of communicating to us.
FRANKLIN: That’s teamwork. To become an astronaut, I guess, to work in any kind of work environment, you have to work with others. So, here in this international setting that we have, working together as a team was a big deal. How did you overcome that challenge?
STUDENT: We came up with a number system and also used the NATO alphabet to overcome that, so everyone could understand what we’re saying and we knew what letters we were using.
BLAIR: What has been the most fun activity you have done for Mission X?
STUDENT: Diving and gyro.
BLAIR: Oh! You did the gyro?
BLAIR: You apparently survived. You did well. Was it scary at all?
STUDENT: It was comfortable.
BLAIR: It was comfortable?
BLAIR: You’re a natural astronaut. That makes me wonder would you like to become an astronaut someday?
BLAIR: All right. Very good, thanks so much, Go. I hope you and I can be astronauts together some time in the future. Would you like that?
STUDENT: Yeah. It’s good maybe. It may be good.
BLAIR: [laughing] I’m sure I’m the “may be” part of that.
NIGEL: Every project that we have is STEM orientated, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. We tend, with those projects, to reach the people who are interested in those subjects. With Mission X, we reach out to the students who have not necessarily even considered careers in STEM subjects. Using astronauts, the inspiration of astronauts and their training and physical exercise, we really come out from the opposite angle and how we essentially reach out to the children who didn’t or don’t necessarily like STEM subjects.
RAFAEL: We have an alliance situation in Columbia and we have concluded that one of the priority activities is education. With my experience in space projects, I consider that there is the possibility to transfer space knowledge into a social context. Mission X is one of these programs that we can apply in order to stimulate, develop and transfer some information that they can use in their normal context. For instance, if they want to implement a company, if they have learned discipline and organization so they can use these in their countries. There are various elements of Mission X that we can use. Very interesting, in this specific case, we address the subject of health and physical fitness but Mission X contains other elements that would help us stimulate the kids to learn Science, to learn organization, to learn discipline, and not only the kids but also the teachers and the parents. We want to influence the whole country. So this mission for Columbia is very useful.
NIGEL: What’s really great about this program is that it affects different types of teachers, PE teachers get involved. They start to talk to the Science teachers and it become really cross curricular. It’s one of the programs, which probably encompasses more subjects then just the Science subjects. It’s great.
CHRIS: Laurie, what great things can we expect from Mission X in 2014?
LAURIE: For 2014, we know we’re going to have a few more countries join. We’re going to have more participation in the southern hemisphere which will be interesting trying to juggle when the challenge happens.
CHRIS: If I’m a country who wants to participate or a school from a country that wants to participate, how do I get involved in Mission X?
LAURIE: The easy way is to go to the website, trainlikeanastronaut.org. On there, you can ask a question that goes to our team. We’ll respond to you.
CHRIS: Out of the 22 countries that participated in Mission X 2013, how many total students were reached?
LAURIE: We had around 16,000 students that were reached.
CHRIS: That’s a lot of kids.
LAURIE: Yeah, quite a bit. It’s grown. Every year, it has grown.
CHRIS: All right, 2014, how many students would you like to reach?
LAURIE: We’d like to reach closer to 18,000 to 20,000.
CHRIS: 18 to 20?
CHRIS: After that multi-year campaign is completed, do you want to go on to another multi-year campaign?
LAURIE: Yeah, all the way to 2017.
CHRIS: Any goals on the second campaign?
LAURIE: We would like to get about 39 to 40 countries involved and have a growth each year of participants by about 20%.
CHRIS: Hey, who knows, when we land on Mars by 2030, and we have colonies. It could reach multiple planets.
LAURIE: That’s true. Yeah, that will be a whole other challenge.
CHRIS: Mission X 2013, international closing event is a wrap.
BLAIR: And it was really awesome to see all the international kids working together and participating in all the activities.
FRANKLIN: We’d like to thank our friends at the European Space Agency, especially Nigel and Shamim.
CHRIS: Next year, we hope even more countries, teachers, and students participate in MX 2014.
BLAIR: And of course, that doesn’t matter whether it’s on Mars or anywhere else; we’re going to be there.
CHRIS: You’re watching NASA EDGE.
FRANKLIN: An inside and outside look…
BLAIR: …at all things NASA.