Transcript for Space Station Tour
Robot Design Challenge
March 4, 2003
>> Good afternoon, all of you out there in worldwide
We want to welcome you today to our program.
The Distance Learning Outpost partnered with the quest program at Johnson
Space Center in Houston, Texas and Ames Research Center is happy to bring
you our program on space basics 101.
We'll be talking about the International Space Station.
>> I'm Chris.
We'll be your hosts today.
>> We have a great program lined up for you.
Now, you guys have all accepted the challenge to design a robot helper
to assist our astronauts while they're living in space aboard the International
To do that you have to come up with your robot design.
What we're going to do is get you familiar with the day-to-day activities
that our astronauts experience on board the space station.
We're going to talk about training and how do we get up into space, and
what is macro gravity.
What are some of the challenges with floating?
Living in space on a day-to-day basis.
Working in space on a day-to-day basis and how do we get back home?
With that quick overview let's go ahead and get started.
Chris, let's talk a little bit about JSC and where we fit in the NASA
>> Johnson Space Center is one of 10 NASA space sites across the
We have in California, and Kennedy that's where we launch and recover.
At Johnson Space Center we're in charge of training the astronaut core
and getting them ready for space.
Now, we have about 163 astronauts from 16 different countries.
Those countries allow us to look at the international nature of people
working together here to try to get something to work and make some cool
Those astronauts come here to train.
There is a variety of things they have to work on.
They don't just work by themselves.
They're always with a group of people, ground crew, support crew, training
crew and their own crew mates to make sure things are done successfully
and solve problems and learn the tasks.
They have things very similar to what you're experiencing.
You have some outdoor survival classes or you might be taking some civil
air patrol flight classes.
You might have regular instructors in class teaching you your geometry
and math and problem solving skills but you're doing it with teams of
We're doing this inside building 9.
Now, building 9 is a very huge expanse -- like a big huge garage where
we put our full fuselage trainers in there.
>> Chris, thank you for telling us about our astronauts and we're
going to see some very cool things later which our astronauts actually
I want to remind everybody out there that we are here to spend this hour
with you answering all of your questions about what the astronauts do
up in space and hopefully you'll come up with good ideas on what kind
of robot you would like to design.
That being said, take those questions and submit them into the chat room
so we can see them and try to answer them for you.
So at any point in time during our program today, pop those questions
into the chat room and we will do our best to answer as many of them during
our program today as we can get in.
That being said, Chris, we already have our first question in the chat
room from Terry in Pennsylvania.
He wants to know how many people do we have up in space at any one time?
>> At any one particular time, with the shuttle we can put about
seven to nine people or ten people on the shuttle.
We have a limit we can only put three on the International Space Station.
13 total in space from the American program and its international.
We're limited on the International Space Station because of the Soyuz
The international space center is designed to have seven people and in
the future we hope to have that capability.
>> Chris, will you explain to us, first of all, the concept of what
microgravity is so we all have a good understanding of the type of environment
our robot helper is going to have to work and assist our astronauts with?
>> Let's talk about what microgravity is all about.
If you break that word down to its components.
If you look at the word micro meaning a small amount of.
Gravity is what keeps us on earth.
You know we have a little bit of gravity still up in space.
We want to show you an animation piece here to kind of give you an idea
of what is happening.
It's called free fall.
We are actually falling around the earth.
When that happens, we can do a little simulation here with this globe
and this little shuttle here that we have.
We are about 220 miles above the surface of the earth traveling at 17,500
We are constantly falling.
If we slow down we'll come into the earth.
If we speed up we'll go into deep space.
It's a magical number and speed to make sure we maintain that orbit.
We're falling around the earth.
Now, another way to take a look at it is we'll use an elevator situation
here to explain free fall in a different way.
To get that kind of floating feeling or microgravity feeling.
If that elevator fell and broke the cable the elevator, astronaut and
apple she's holding are all falling at the same rate.
They start to fall together and they start floating on the inside relative
to the elevator.
You have no weight because everything is falling at the same weight coming
It's exactly what the shuttle does when it goes around the earth.
It falls around the earth and maintains the free fall going on.
There are some other things in there, too, that we do.
We used to wonder when I was a kid and you did the same thing.
If there was a special room we had here that we could turn on the switch
and start floating around all the time.
I used to think that was kind of cool and I thought we had that.
Well, I found out we don't have a microgravity room but we have two places
where we can actually simulate microgravity.
One is common to you.
When you sometimes do this all the time.
It is a very large swimming pool.
You tend to float.
Well, we put just enough weight or take weight off our astronauts so they
We put them in their EVA suits and weigh them out and they have to practice
inside this huge pool.
Let's see if we can take a look at the neutral buoyancy lab.
It's 40 feet deep and this thing holds about 25,000 swimming pools worth
In other words, 6.2 million gallons of water.
As you can see we're putting our astronauts in there.
Weigh them out and they can start floating and get a sense of a microgravity
environment as they practice the sequences of building, tasking and putting
Now, there is one other cool place where we can simulate this microgravity
>> Before we go there we got word we're having second any call difficulties
with the chat room.
We want to be able to answer your questions.
What we need you to do is e-mail us your questions.
Let me give you the e-mail address.
It's quest -- robot at quest.
In a moment we'll pop that up on the screen for you in case you didn't
catch it so you could submit your questions to that e-mail address since
we are having some technical difficulties with our chat room.
That way we'll still be able to answer your questions during our program
Let's keep talking about floating around.
We did have another question from Joan in New York that ties in nicely
with what you're talking about.
She wants to know, since there is microgravity, do things float up to
the roof or stay in the middle of the space sheet for her planning purposes?
>> That's a good question.
Do they float up to the roof?
No, they won't unless you start pushing them in that direction.
If I were to just hold an object out there and let it go it will stay
there forever because that object and us and the space shuttle or the
International Space Station are all moving at the same rate and speed.
If I were to give it an extra push up it would go and bounce and come
back down until it bounce .
We'll talk about the challenges of moving around in a microgravity environment
We'll tie this back to how to simulate it back on earth.
The pool is the first one.
Some of us have been on a rollercoaster.
When you get to the top your body lifts out and you get this instant second
of microgravity feeling.
Well, if you take that rollercoaster and put it in the air we'll be flying
ourselves in a a special plane called a KC135.
Look at this and see how it works.
It flies up and down like this.
As it comes over the top of it and starts to fall like the elevator, everyone
and everything inside that plane starts to lift off the floor and floats
because they're all falling at the same rate.
Free fall again.
Then you come to the bottom of the curve and you'll hit the bottom of
the plain gracefully and you'll start feeling twice your weight at the
bottom of the curve.
We do that 40 to 60 times with with the astronauts.
After going up and down on your stomach all the time, it's called the
Half of those astronauts and the people on there tend to get a little
queasy but then they get used to it.
We do it swimming in a pool and in the KC135.
>> The vomit comet is an interesting name for this aircraft.
I can see that's where it gets its name.
We've all ridden rollercoasters and we know how it makes our stomach feel.
I can't imagine doing that 40 times in a row.
Well, let's talk -- now that we know what microgravity is, understand
how it works and how our tools and instruments and robots might float
around and behave in space, let's talk about the everyday challenges of
living in space.
Now, food and eating is one of my favorite things to do on earth.
I can imagine it might be a little challenging in space as well.
>> It definitely is.
I have a question for you and everyone out there.
Have you ever gotten in trouble as a kid playing with your food?
Me, too, we always are told don't play with your food.
We have some interesting situations up there.
We used to kind of wonder when we first went up, could astronauts even
swallow their food in a microgravity environment.
You think about the esophagus and trachea.
We found out we could.
You never spill your food.
There are some unique challenges about how to actually manipulate food
so that you can get ready to eat.
We want to show you an example of eating on ground mixed in with eating
on space station in the shuttle.
Go ahead and take a look at this, first.
>> That is so cool to be able to play about your food and have fun
it with in an microgravity environment and not spill it.
Here is what the food tends to look like as we get it up there with the
It is freeze dried and taken all the moisture out.
If you look at the top there is a small little hole that we'll put a straw
into the galy to put water back in.
As we swish it around we put it in the microwave and heat it up and have
a hot meal here of scrambled eggs and here is your sausage patty.
We may go off the shelf and pick up a few.
You might recognize this piece right here.
It is that candy that melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
>> My favorite afternoon snack.
Those are some of the food items.
And as you've been able to figure out there are about 70 items the astronaut
can select from.
They set up their own menu.
We have labs that allow the astronauts to find the best kind of food for
them to eat because we have to keep them healthy and do other things as
Where else should we go next?
>> When we talk about--
>> Another place we might want to take a look at is drinking.
Thank you, okay.
Drinking is a little different here because we have to put it in this
kind of pouch.
The powder drink here.
We don't let the water float around.
Here is our straw.
We put it up to the galley.
I have lemonade and we're able to drink it this way.
We've had some questions from students asking if I had a glass of water
and since I don't need a glass to keep my water in in microgravity, how
does that water behave in a microgravity environment?
It takes the shape of the container here.
I get my sip, pretty predictable.
Take a look at what water does in a microgravity environment.
Here is your glass of water.
Now, because of the molecular structure and the bonding of the hydrogen
and oxygen molecules they'll try to stay together.
They'll eventually take the shape of a sphere.
Here is a whole glass of water.
We can manipulate it with sound waves to move the globs of water into
different positions and learn the behavior of fluid physics while we're
It is cool to take a look at what is happening here.
We don't normally let water go floating around on the station because
of all the electrical appliances.
We have an experiment to show you guys how it works.
A lot of people asks, sleeping is different and nice in a microgravity
You don't have to put a bed there.
There is no up or down.
By the way, you float anyway all around that station.
You could put your bed on the ceiling, on the walls or anywhere you want
You don't have to have that mattress to have that firmness.
Your body is floating there.
As a matter of fact, here is the bed.
A very simple and thin device.
You'll put your head up here and basically a blanket that you wrap around
that has clips and clip yourself anywhere you want.
Take a look at an astronaut sleeping.
Here is one on station here.
We have to do some things differently.
We have the black mask out there to block on the light.
Other parts of the crew have to stay awake and maintain the shuttle systems
or the International Space Station systems.
Ear plugs are in and you notice it looks like there is a blue band over
the astronaut's head and this is Velcro so your head doesn't Bob around.
The sleeping position is natural with the arms out there.
The astronauts say it is an easy, gentle, peaceful type experience when
you don't have to worry about moving and being on the wrong side.
>> You have given us some great things to think about in terms of
living on a day-to-day basis inside the station.
There are many others we can talk about.
I want to remind everybody out there to submit your questions, since our
chat room is down, submit them to the e-mail address ROBOT @ quest.ARC.NASA.gov.
Send those questions in.
We're plowing through them.
You talked about eating in space, drinking in space, sleeping in space.
What about our everyday personal hygiene?
>> That's a very popular question that comes up quite frequently.
Some things like coming your hair, brushing your teeth.
The one most people ask about is how do you go to the bathroom out in
And there are some steps that you have to go through for sure.
Now remember, you're floating around and I'm also going to put in the
fact that water is very expensive to get up in space and you can't compact
We try to minimize the amount of water that we have to use while we're
up on station or on the shuttle.
So the toilet operates a little differently.
Let's take a look here.
It looks like a regular toilet but you strap yourself down and buckle
Put your foot restraints and arms to make sure you stay on the seat and
you don't go floating off.
As a lot of people say around here, there are some things you don't want
floating around up in that station.
Now, since we don't use water, we have to figure out another way to direct
the urine and the solid waste away from your body.
We do that with air flow.
Or a vacuum suction.
There is a tube for your collection and a seat for the solid waste sucked
away by a vacuum into a holding tank.
There are 16 steps to go to the restroom.
It's the same on both station and the shuttle.
Now, there are some other items about personal hygiene that we can take
a look at.
One is -- I think it is brushing your teeth.
Now again, we don't want to have a lot of water use.
We tend to do something like a non-foaming type of toothbrush that you
can swallow that might come in a tube.
There is an item here.
Here is your locker and you put your personal items in there.
It might be your brush, tooth paste, comb or shaver but they never settle
They're floating around all the time.
You reach in there and find it and pull it out.
Toothbrushing is a big one.
You're swallowing that paste down.
We don't want to have to rinse out all the time.
Another one called shaving that you have to do.
We don't use a regular razor most of the time.
We don't want stubble floating around.
There is a vacuum on the razor.
A lot of women and men that have longer hair after several months up there
and you have to trim it.
They're kind of holding a vacuum hose on the side to suck up all that
It's an interesting situation where you really are very familiar with
your crew mates there and you trust them all the way through.
My goodness, Chris you're giving us a lot of things to think about.
I hope you guys are getting great ideas of how your robot helper can help
out the astronauts on board the station.
I wonder if we could use robots for entertainment.
Do the astronauts have any free time when they're up there on the station?
>> An excellent question.
There is a little bit of free time that is happening with those astronauts
They have a very busy schedule and they're in shifts.
There are the top three or four items when they like to do.
What would you do if you were up above the earth and traveling 17,500
miles-per-hour and you see a sunrise and sun set every 45 minutes?
If you've got any time left over you might want to do some writing back
to the family on your e-mail.
You might want to do some reading.
The number one thing they love to do is to look out the window.
The number two is to do some kind of self-entertainment where they can
play an instrument.
There are some instruments up there on station.
There might be a guitar, it might be a flute or piccilo to share music
and sing songs.
>> Chris, we've talked about some items that they do during free
time and all other kinds of things that they do on a day-to-day basis
in terms of just living and functioning.
Let's get a good feel for the environment that they're in.
Maybe give us a brief tour of the inside of the station and along with
that, Susan from Illinois had wrote in and wants to know how many rooms
there are on board the station.
And what are these rooms used for?
That might answer her question.
>> Excellent question.
As we're building that station here let's take a tour of some of the things
that are happening on the international space station.
We're in the shuttle.
We're going through the shuttle down and into the first compartment of
the International Space Station.
If you look at the bottom of the screen you can see on the left-hand side
the shuttle talked to the ISS.
You're going from the main hatch into the ISS first nodule which is destiny
made by America.
You can see the walls and ceilings.
Remember, there is no up or down so you have to and you can use all surfaces
for work, for entertainment, for recreation, sleep and rest.
It looks salmon color.
We're changing into unity which is a node that connects the pieces and
future pieces we'll put with the space station.
As we go through that we're going into the first international component
not made by NASA here.
This is VEZDA and ZARIA.
Is everything in Russian?
The international language will be English but our astronauts have to
learn both languages.
Both Russian and English and the ground control situations and what happens
Those were the first pieces that came up there, the block house of the
master control or attitude control and orbital control.
You can see on the walls there is a place here for the galley and kitchen.
Sleeping quarters can be anywhere.
All the spaces and containers are for experiments.
As we run toward the end of the Russian components you can see a hatch
in the back.
On the bottom of the screen you can see the Soyuz space capsule.
It is able to bring the astronauts down in case of an emergency.
Only enough room for three.
The seat is foamed fitted to them.
It can only be them and only up to three right now.
>> Well now that we've seen the inside hopefully we're getting more
ideas for what type of robot helper you would like to design.
Now, we've got another question in.
Before I do that I want to remind everybody our chat room is down.
If you want to submit those questions, submit them to the following e-mail
address, robot @ quest.ARC.NASA.gov.
What kind of chores do the astronauts have to do on a daily basis that
his robot could help out with?
>> You name it and you could fit a robot to do that.
We have to build our house and work on our house at the same time.
So we have to get out there and put things together.
If you can design a robot that helps bring tools to you so you don't have
to spend the time lugging the tools out to your station.
Maybe a robot that can move big pieces and get them ready for you.
Or let's say, for instance, maybe inside the station you could have a
robot that gets your EVA suit ready for you instead of another astronaut
or maybe a first aid robot in case something goes wrong or you need medical
attention your robot comes out real fast and assesses the situation and
makes a decision and helps get the medical supplies out to you.
Let's take a quick look at another kind of robot that we've developed
that is an extra set of eyes for us.
It is called air cam.
We've tested this back in the mid 1990's.
It looks like a soccer ball with two video cameras to give you stereo
and it should be able to move by itself to help inspect things on the
station before the astronauts get out there.
Or, we can use it while you're out there working on there maybe one of
your fellow crew mates inside the station can use air cam to help you
see things that you're missing.
There is a simple little device, a floating soccer ball with gas jets
that will help you look upon the International Space Station for damage,
inspection or things that are happening.
You name it, you could probably come up with something that needs to be
done that needs to be done.
We're looking for ideas to make living and working in space easier as
well as get those kinds of tasks done so we can get on to the science
and discovery that requires humans to do.
>> Chris, Andre from Mexico city has another question for us about
We talked about air cam but he wants to know, are there any robots on
the station now?
Now, Andre we'll tell you about our robots but we want you to come up
with your own ideas for robots.
This is what we currently have up there and what we still have left that
needs to be designed by you.
>> Absolutely, yes, we do have one major robot system working on
the shuttle and the international space shuttle.
It's called the CANNON arm.
It has the cool ability to walk itself across the International Space
If you can think of your shoulder being attached to the ISS and then my
hand grabbing it and my shoulder swinging around it is almost like an
inch warm going across the station.
The purpose and function of this huge arm is to allow us to do some of
the work up there.
To move the big pieces of the International Space Station into place so
the astronauts can go out and bolt it down and connect the wires on it.
It is big and massive.
Here is an example of both arms, matter of fact, working together.
One is the cannon arm trading off to the Canada arm 2 from the International
It's the big system we have now.
>> We talked about a couple of robots that we have up in space and
have used up in space.
I know we have a really cool robot that we're working on in the future.
Could you tell us a little bit about that one?
>> That is a cool one.
If anyone is a "Star Wars" fan with C3PO we're working on one
that looks like him.
It's called Robonot.
Look at the parts here on him.
>> In classic science fiction authors and artists dreamed of an
age where humans would work side by side with robots.
Mechanical helpers so advanced they resembled their human creators.
Is that age so far away?
At the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, engineers have taken
the next step in robotics.
This is robonot.
It's changing the way people think about robots and making yesterday's
science fiction a reality.
Robonot means a human operator can control its movements from a distance.
The operator controls the head of the robot and see what the robot sees.
The binocular video give a sense of depth and work site emotion.
A position-sensitive glove controls the movement of the arm and hand which
replicates the capabilities of a human arm and hand.
The human aspect of the robot hand gives it the potential to be an assistant
to astronauts working in space.
It has 12 individual controlled motions or degrees of freedom divided
into two sections.
The first two fingers and thumb make up the work side.
They have three degrees of freedom.
They can open and close as well as spread apart like human fingers.
The remaining two fingers only open and close.
They're used for grasping.
The palm can cup to help grasp tools.
With over 100 sensors in the arm the manipulateor has a fine motion capability
that equals its great strength.
The one-to-one strength to weight ratio is unequalled in the manipulateor
world allowing for the applications that Robonot faces.
It is made to meet the extremes of space environment and make it safe
for its role as a human assistant.
The two arms can work together to perform more complex tasks.
To hold large objects using both hands or to stabilize and work on objects
Robonot's upper body is mounted on a 3 degree of freedom waist along full
orientation of motion.
This articulation of the torso allows the robot to extend its reach and
position its arms for efficient work site operations.
With a range of motion greater than that of a human gymnast this waist
can rotate fully around repositioning the arms for work and the head for
The head still in development houses stereo vision camera pointed by an
As the operator moves his head Robonot's eyes give a sense of depth.
The head contains an additional pair of cameras with auxiliary view angles
and L.E.D.'s to illuminate the work site.
It could be ideal for helping astronauts.
For the first time, humans and robots can share the same space walking
>From this power drill used to represent the space torque wrench used
to loosen or tighten bolts on space hard wears to tethers used to connect
themselves to a spacecraft by astronauts, and Velcro strips used to attach
thermal blankets and insulation covers.
Construction is underway on the International Space Station.
The largest space structure ever built.
The space shuttle robot arm has been invaluable in helping astronauts
to move the giant pieces of the station together and maneuver space walkers
to their work site.
It will have its own robotic system designed to build and maintain the
Robonot has the potential to expand the role as robots as helpers for
routine maintenance tasks.
It could be used to set up a work site for a astronauts, installing foot
restraints, saving valuable time before the space walk actually begins.
As the astronaut works on the station, the Robonot could act as an assistance,
much the same way a nurse works with a doctor or if desired the robot
could perform some of the maintenance tasks on its own by being TELE operated.
It could free the EVA astronaut to perform more important duties.
Robonot has applications not only in the maintenance of spacecraft but
also in the exploration of other worlds.
The Robonot torso could be combined with a rover allowing travel across
the terrain of other planets.
Imagine the ability for a scientist to use Robonot to pick up a rock,
inspect it and add it to a collection for return to earth.
In the future, the same Robonot technology that helps explore space could
have very down to earth applications.
Robonot sophisticated hands can work with tweezers and a number of other
tools that could be used for a host of science applications.
Whether the Robonot works on its own or lends a helping hand, the uses
of the Robonot are limited only by the imagination of its user.
No longer reserved for the pages of science fiction, Robonot represents
technology that is working together.
With far-reaching applications in the future both in space and here on
>> Man, that is just the coolest kind of stuff to be able to work
on science fiction and make it real.
I'm impressed with that.
That's the latest that we're working on with Robonot here at Johnson Space
>> Now, Chris, I know everyone's designs out there will be even
more impressive than Robonot, at least we hope so.
We look forward to seeing those submitted.
We've come all the way up to this point.
Let's talk about the challenges of working every day up in the space environment
and now your robot design to help out with any of the things we've talked
about so far.
Here is the meat and potatoes.
We're up there to get work done and there are some challenges in accomplishing
The astronauts are working in a very limited, tight space as Chris showed
us earlier inside the space station.
There are a lot of tasks that need to get done on a daily basis.
A lot of routine tasks that we would like to be able to free up for robots
to do so that our astronaut crew members would have more time to do more
complicated work, experiments and other tasks that they might be working
So, Chris, why don't you tell us a little bit about some of the overall
challenges on a day-to-day basis that maybe robots could help out with.
Like you said, it's a very tight space and you don't have much to move
On the walls and ceiling are your experiments and tasks to be taken care
Because you're in a hostile environment.
250 degrees below zero to 250 degrees above zero with no oxygen.
The daily tasks of maintaining your house are intact and safe.
All those systems.
Monitoring systems of altitude, heat flow, relationship to the earth and
everything, all those have to be monitored.
There is a place for a robot or system.
A robotic system to help maintain those basic, everyday types of systems
on the station.
While you're doing your experiments, it could be anything from looking
for fluid physics.
How do fluids and gases flow in a microgravity environment to help us
back on earth.
We can look at biological systems.
A variety of things you have to work for to see how they're going to happen
here on earth.
Those things you have to maintain.
Now, on fluid physics here on earth as you see here we have gravity to
help settle out lighter things from heavier things.
By their density.
Microgravity environment that doesn't happen.
Everything stays mixed up.
It allows us to look at different kinds of fluid and materials.
Plastics can be better and stronger.
Different metals can be developed and brought down here to come up with
brand new types of materials in everything that we do.
It could be different kinds of plastics, automotive industry, space research,
aeronautics but you have to maintain the systems.
Think of robots that could help you do the experiments.
Set them up, monitor them, turn them, rotate them.
Get the data for you that you don't have to monitor all the things that
have to be done.
Now there might be some other things that you might have like because
you're floating around in a microgravity environment you might have a
robot that helps put these in place.
You look at these and say well, what are these?
This is a hand hold for humans and this is a foothold for humans so we
don't go floating off the station.
We have to be able to stay somewhere.
You could have a robot designed to get your workstation ready to go inside
and outside the station before you have to get there.
Anything to save time.
Anything to make things safer.
Anything to look for new ways of discovery and exploration.
>> Oh my goodness we have real challenges ahead of us in terms of
getting work done.
Now joy from Missouri wants to know how much time each day do the ISS
crew members spend doing operations work versus the kind of important
scientific experiments and other work that they're doing up on board the
>> Now it's interesting how it will work out.
There is a crew on the International Space Station and -- this one over
here is a model back here.
There is three people up there right now.
Sometimes one person might be tasked to do the station operations and
make sure those are working up.
And the other two are starting to get the experiments set and ready to
You have three people you have to work around.
Divide your day into three different parts.
One person starts the station, one starts the experiment and the other
one fill in for the next person.
Everyone revolves around and doesn't do the same thing all the time.
You know what it's like when you do the same thing all the time.
That is why we have the robots do it for us.
A robot is an old check word from the 1920's meaning repetive labor or
something we don't want to do or is too dangerous.
It is quite variable for the day.
Think about it terms of thirds since there are three people up there from
the operations to experiments.
>> We have obviously stimulated some of the students' brains out
The questions are rolling in.
For those of you who haven't had the chance yet.
We have about 19 minutes left in our program.
If you have a question that you would like us to answer for you, send
us your question to the e-mail address robot @ quest.ARC.NASA.gov.
Our chat room is having some difficulties.
Mrs. W.'s class in Michigan wants to know, hi there, Michigan.
What if there was a medical emergency in space?
Do they have medicines and how would they handle that?
We're prepared for that.
It's something we always have to look for.
Now, the astronauts don't all have to be from the military or pilots.
A lot of them can be medical doctors from the medical field, from engineering
field, but on top of that they're all trained in first aid CPR.
There are medical devices and equipment aboard the ISS and the shuttle
to deal with those kinds of situations.
And we come up with all kinds of ideas and try to make a new package or
a new system to help those astronauts stay safe.
So we have fire suppression, oxygen monitors and carbon dioxide monitors.
First aid systems and sutures and need also and everything else to take
a look at what happens that we need for the astronauts to stay safe.
If something happens that can't be handled on the International Space
Station we have the crew recovery vehicle or the emergency vehicle.
This is a mock-up of it purchased from the Russian space agency for us
to train here.
The gray ball with what looks like the tire on top.
This is the crew emergency vehicle, parked at the International Space
Station all the time.
When it's needed they would go into this.
Three of them would go in there and come back down to Siberia, Russia
to be retrieved.
It is a parachute that lands on-line.
It would be great to have better facilities on the station in form of
let's say a robotic first aid medical assistant that could help the astronauts,
as well as talk to the doctors here on the ground at Mission Control.
These questions keep rolling in.
June is obviously planning how large her robot can be and she wants to
know how big is the hatch to the International Space Station?
Now, when we showed you a little earlier the International Space Station
and the shuttle here, inside the bay doors when they open up there is
a special hatch that allows us to dock the International Space Station.
It is about 3 1/2 feet across or a little bit more than a meter.
If you look at 3 1/2 feet you get a rough idea of that hatch size.
Not very big.
It's a good question to ask to make sure the robot can move in and out
from one station to the shuttle or out into space to help the astronauts.
Boy, we have another great question from happy middle school.
The share students in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
They want to know about propulsion.
If a hydrogen-powered engine would be a good idea to use inside the station.
>> Inside the station, okay.
Now, let's see, inside the station, a gas propellant you would have to
be very careful with that in case some systems go wrong and you have this
thing powered too far.
You might think like air cam, those were a cold gas jet propulsion system
that moved the soccer ball around.
Since you have an atmosphere inside the International Space Station, you
have air and gas in there, you could still propel something through that
using another kind of propulsion system.
Might I suggest the possibility of a motorized fan or propeller that changes
You see these sometimes, the engine of the fans can change direction and
move the DURIGIBLE around.
Or spring off the walls like the astronauts do.
That is a good question to ask.
Should gas be used inside the ISS?
>> Well, Beverly, thanks for writing in.
Your question is about Robonot which we just watched a little clip about
You want to know if it's possible for Robonot or other robots to be able
to be controlled remotely from earth.
We are working with some of our robot engineers they're working with virtual
reality visors so they can control things from far distances.
At the end of the Robonot video clip you saw him on the planet Mars.
There is a very good example of Robonot being used and controlled from
earth while the eyes of Robonot send images back to us so we can make
a determination which way we want to go and give it some control autonomously
on its own to be able to make decisions but we would intercede.
Same thing on the International Space Station, yes, air cam and Robonot
could be controlled by an astronaut or someone on earth.
Do a virtual reality type thing.
Good question and a good way to solve it.
>> Everyone, keep those questions coming.
We have about 13, 14 minutes left until our program ends today.
Send those questions since our chat room is down to this e-mail address.
Our next question comes from heritage Christian academy.
Hi to all of you joining us from there.
You want the know how long does it take to build the space station --
how long did it take?
We're not finished yet.
I'll let Chris tell us all about it.
>> That's a good question because we're in the process of still
building the International Space Station.
We think we have about three or four more years still in construction.
It is kind of difficult to think that you've got to live in an unfinished
house out in space and still do the science.
So it is going to take three or four more years before it's completed.
Let's show you on the floor some of the pieces that are being put together
as we pan here.
You see the Russian runs that we're going by.
All the shapes have a cylinder-type shape to fit inside the International
Space Station or brought up to space by the shuttle.
If you look at the upper left-hand corner there that's the Japanese key
On the right-hand side is one from the Italians called Columbus.
Those shapes are being constructed all over the world.
Brought to Kennedy to be launched and we have to put them together.
We're looking to research and explore and discover inside the International
Space Station to help you and I back here.
Coming up with those kinds of robotic devices that make works easier and
allow us to work better.
We ask you guys to submit our ideas to us.
>> We have another great question coming in from Jerome.
And he wants to know how fast does the space shuttle go on the ground,
in space, taking off?
I guess he's thinking if his robot is going to be taken up to the space
station on the space shuttle, what kind of experience and durability does
his robot need to have?
>> That's a good one because now you're thinking about how to get
the robot up to the International Space Station.
This is the vehicle we're using right now.
To do that launch you are request you under what we call 3G's of pressure
or weight of gravity.
Anything in the shuttle, including yourself during launch, you'll start
to feel like you weigh three times when you normally weigh on earth.
I'll use the simple number 100 pounds on launch.
You'll start weighing 300 pounds.
It is going to feel an effect on you and will make things heavy on your
Of course it will make things real heavy on the machinery that you're
lifting up into space.
Now, within the first two minutes you're already gone 30 miles up and
it takes you about eight minutes before you go all the way up into space.
In that eight minutes things are rattling and shaking and you have all
this pressure on you.
Three times your normal weight and on the equipment until you get up there.
Once you're up there, you lose all that weight and things move smoothly
It is just a cool experience.
But the ride up there is a kick in the pants the way those astronauts
describe it all the time.
They love it, it's great and exciting but when they get up there that's
the part they enjoy the most.
That microgravity environment.
Now what was the rest of his question?
>> He wants to know actual speed of when -- during launch, once
it gets up there, how fast would his robot be traveling in space.
>> As the launch is going up there you're traveling three to four
times the speed of sound, 750 miles-per-hour for mach1.
The shuttle is traveling at 17,500 miles-per-hour.
Five miles a second.
So is the station.
It's the magic number.
The altitude and speed to maintain the free fall orbit around the earth.
Coming back down the shuttle starts at 17,500 miles.
Once it gets into the atmosphere it goes through a series of turns to
bleed off speed to bring it down to several hundred miles-per-hour.
When that happens it needs to get down to 200 miles-per-hour to land at
You'll get some buffeting because you're back in the atmosphere again
and you don't have engines, just a huge glider.
You get one chance at landing the shuttle at Kennedy or some of the other
emergency fields that we have across the country and the world.
Now, once you land and roughly 160 miles-per-hour you now have a certain
amount of runway space to slow down.
We do it with a parachute that comes out.
The brakes engage and you roll to a very slow, smooth stop.
We've got another question coming as we're watching the rest of this video.
Coming from Hannah, Caleb, Alex and hunter.
It relates to the microgravity environment.
They want to know since there is a small amount of gravity in the ship,
is your body greater than the gravity around you?
>> Is the body greater than the gravity around you?
It's a tough question.
Because there is a bit of microgravity there there is still some effect.
There is always gravity in space.
Because of the size of the planets there are always trying to attract
particles over a long period of time to that particular planet or that
So if we were not to have that speed of 17,500 miles-per-hour and we were
to start to slow down we would -- gravity would pull us back down to earth
So there is some gravity on you but you don't notice it and your body
doesn't notice it because you keep falling around the earth.
Until you stop, then you'll start being attracted to the largest body
out there which would be earth.
As long as you move and free fall your body won't feel that gravitational
That comes up with some other medical problems, too.
Your bones and muscles become weak.
We have to think of ways to exercise or some other kind of robotic devices
to help us stay strong.
>> Well, Chris, speaking of our bones and muscles and the effects
on our body up in space, Bev at heritage Christian academy in Michigan
has a question wanting to know how does your blood circulate in space?
>> Excellent question.
It's one of the problems we've been looking at because it happens a little
Here on earth you know your heart is pumping about here to pump blood
against gravity to get blood up here.
If we didn't have this heart pumping all the blood would be down here
and we get light-headed and pass out and we're gone.
It's what happens in space.
No more gravity.
Something different happens.
Your heart is pumping trying to get the blood all over your body.
You get into a microgravity environment and the blood gets spread all
over the place and you fell puffy and congested.
Now the blood has shifted equally over all parts of your body.
Your heart doesn't have to beat so much so it slows down.
Now, your heart and your body thinks there is too much blood in your body.
So now it stops or slows down the production of blood platelets and red
blood cells and white blood cells.
Now you're producing less blood because you don't have to work that much.
There is a big problem.
We have to keep the cardiovascular and other systems healthy by putting
some stress on them.
Here is one way to take a look at what is happening here.
We make sure that blood is working here.
Here we are going up in space and as we get into a microgravity environment
you'll see the blood in the balloon shift up.
It's where we have the problems.
The body thinks it has less blood because it's all over the place equally
We have to figure out a way to keep the blood moving.
Here is an example of what we call the puffy feeling on the right-hand
side and the normal picture is on the left.
That would be cool for you to figure out ways for robots.
Remember, weight is not a factor up there.
Matter of fact, you might think about this.
You've probably seen this.
It's called a bungee cord.
We're using it to help keep our astronauts down on the floor working on
certain exercising devices.
You might want to figure out a better way to work a robot to get the astronauts
Part of the schedule of every astronaut every day is two hours of exercise
to make sure your muscles stay kind of healthy.
>> One last reminder, everybody out there we have just under five
Your last chance to submit your questions so we can get them answered.
We are trying to get through as many as we can in the time we've got left.
Chris, next question comes from hunter and Alex and they want to know
if a magnetic propulsion system would be a good idea inside the ISS instead
>> It might be a very good idea to take a look at magnets and see
how they work.
You don't want such a powerful magnet to interfere with computers.
You know what happens to magnets and computers, it will mess up data.
You'll have to be careful about how it's worked and where it's worked
in the station.
That's a clever possibility about using magnets to move around and attract
from the wall.
We know the International Space Station is made out of metal components.
Play around with that idea.
That's pretty good.
See if that might in certain areas of the International Space Station
might be a viable way to move things around.
>> We have had some wonderful questions coming in today and we want
to thank all of you out there worldwide web land, the students and all
the other participants.
Chris, do you have any closing words of advice for all of our robot design
challengers out there?
>> Every idea you come up with a good idea because you're willing
to try it and see how it works.
Even if something fails or part of it fails, it's okay to fail.
It gives you new and better ideas to make the system better.
Keep trying things.
Keep asking those questions and hopefully you get a job that you love
doing and get paid for this and maybe there will be one of those jobs
here at one of the ten NASA sites.
I think there is something else we want to tell the kids about.
>> We want to remind everybody to note on your calendar that March
24 is your deadline to submit your preliminary design for your robot helper.
Hopefully you got some good ideas today to get you started.
That's your deadline you need to be working with.
There will also be another WebCast next Thursday going to be delving deeper
into the topic of microgravity.
That may help give you an even better understanding of the environment
that your robot helper would be working in.
It will be at 11:00 a.m. central time next Thursday.
Again, you go to the same website to sign up for it.
And we want to say on behalf of the quest program at Ames and Distance
Learning Outpost department here at Johnson Space Center.
We appreciated you having us join today.
Please visit our website for further information that will help you with
your details of designing your robot.
You can also nominate your teacher to go up in space.
>> That's right, yeah, brand new program.
The website is on the bottom of the page.
Nominate your teacher to become an astronaut at the NASA program.
>> Well, from all of us here at NASA we say thank you and until
next time, so long.