21st Century Explorer Podcast Competition

More than any other time in space exploration history, it’s an exciting age for educators and students to be part of. Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts will return to the moon.  This time, we’re planning to stay, building outposts and paving the way for eventual journeys to Mars and beyond.  Today’s students will be tomorrow’s explorers.

In 2008, NASA will celebrate its 50th anniversary.  Sometimes, in order to look forward, we must take a step back to study the past. Because of this, we want to ask – What do you think is NASA’s greatest exploration achievement in the past 50 years and why?

That’s the question this competition asks of students ages 11-18.  Sponsored by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and in collaboration with NASA, the second annual 21st Century Explorer Podcast Competition challenges students to create unique audio and video podcasts.

Running from October 1 through January 4, this competition is open to United States citizens ages 11-18.   Students are grouped into two age divisions: 11-14 and 15-18.  Students in each division will submit an entry in one of two separate categories of their choosing:  audio podcast or video podcast.  First, second, and third place prizes will be awarded in each age group and category within that age group.  An additional “People’s Choice Award”, selected by the public, will honor one podcast for each age division.

Only one entry may be submitted for each student.  More competition details and the entry form can be found at the 21st Century Explorer Podcast Competition website at http://www.explorationpodcast.com.

All work needs to be original.  Any use of copyrighted material will disqualify the entry.

So students, grab a computer, mic, and/or video camera and get busy.  The competition begins October 1, and ends after the first 1,000 entries are submitted in each category OR at midnight on January 4, whichever comes first.

And teachers, encourage your students to put on their thinking caps, reflect on the past, and see how it connects to the future.  This is a wonderful opportunity to take a close look at where space exploration may take 21st Century explorers!

Winners will be announced at the 3rd Space Exploration Conference in Denver, CO on February 28, 2008.  Following the announcement, all winning entries will be posted on the competition website.

Desert RATS Paving the Way for Future Exploration

What an experience of a lifetime.  The Desert RATS are a first class team.  We had the opportunity to witness NASA technology and field-testing in action.

Two space suit engineers in the SCOUT rover head out to their field site.  Credit: Blair Allen

Two of the primary objectives we witnessed were for engineers to conduct a site survey for a lunar outpost using the SCOUT rover and to deploy some 200 meters of cable to enable a solar power system.  This system could potentially power important surface systems and lunar habitats on the moon.

Space suit engineer deploying simulated surface system hardware. Credit: Franklin Fitzgerald

Of course it wouldn’t be exploration without the goofy co-host conducting his own experiments.

Blair Allen completes his SCOUT drivers license test.  According to Frank Delgado, “The license will be sent by mail.”  Kudos to the goofy co-host.  Credit: Franklin Fitzgerald

From what I saw today, I am confident we have the best engineers and scientists working on the lunar architecture. The Desert RATS are very dedicated and passionate about their jobs.  Engineers who’ve been working for NASA’s space program since the 1960s are training the next generation of engineers who’ll be responsible for future moon missions.

Franklin, Blair, and Chris pose for a quick snapshot.  Credit: Ron Beard

Special thanks to Barbara, Joe, Beth, Brandi, Frank and the Desert RATS team for providing us the opportunity to observe the field test.  You guys rock!


Real Cool NASA Testing at Work – Desert RATS Preview

Lunar Outpost Concept.  Credit: NASA

Imagine it’s 2020 and astronauts are working side-by-side on the moon with robots assembling the first lunar outpost.  Blair Allen, medianaut and host of NASA EDGE, is filming and recording the construction of the outpost from a distance in his own personally designed spacesuit.  Sound like science fiction?  Well maybe Blair being on the moon does; he still hasn’t achieved insider status.  But astronauts will one-day tag team with robots to build the first lunar outpost.
In fact, tomorrow we are heading out to the Arizona desert to see the Desert RATS in action.  NASA’s Desert Research and Technology Studies (RATS) team will take over the dry dusty desert land of Arizona to test and torment some of the latest vehicles and gear in order to demonstrate operational concepts for lunar outpost assembly.  They also will be testing new spacesuit designs and measure human-robot interaction.

The Desert RATS will be featured in an upcoming show of NASA EDGE where we take a look at some lunar architecture concepts and understand what it will take to live on the moon.  Oh by the way, remember we will be in the desert for quite some time and I am a little worried about Blair.  We need to remind him to drink plenty of water and watch out for the scorpions and tarantulas.  He is still searching for that radioactive spider that will allow him to crawl up buildings.  We may have to put a leash on him.

We’ll post again on September 13 to share our adventures out in the Arizona desert.


Upcoming Shows and NE@ Segments

It’s been a while since we published a new post.  Blair has been studying for his NASA 101 exam the past few weeks.  I thought I would share some pictures with you on future show topics.  I don’t want to give too much away, but check these pics out.

The NASA EDGE Crew with Endeavour in the background.  Credit: Don Morrision

Chris and Blair taking a ride on the M113
Chris and Blair go for a ride in the M113 behind pad 39B. Credit: Don Morrison

Shaun White practices on vert at X Games 2007.
Shaun White practices on vert at X Games 2007.  Blair is in medianaut training and learning from the pros. Credit: Don Morrison

The Space Power Facility at NASAs Plum Brook Station, OH
Chris, Dick, and Blair inside the Space Power Facility at NASA’s Plum Brook Station, OH.  This is the largest vacuum chamber in the world.  Credit: Ron Beard, Set Therapist

So there you have it.  A sneak peak at what’s to come.  Hopefully Blair will pass his exam and achieve insider status.  It’s starting to get old escorting him around to all these facilities.

All the best,


Zenith and Xenon

It was very surreal to witness the RSS rollback after dark in the sweltering heat and swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitos.  It was also very cool to realize that after this singular moment, it would be impossible to ever view a launch in the same way ever again. 

I remember attending many meetings, participating in tons of discussions about how to get people excited about the space program.  Often times, these kinds of questions can leave you befuddled about how to get NASA’s message out.  The simple fact is that the best way to get people excited about NASA is to let them see it up close.  You can’t be indifferent to the achievement that is the NASA Space Shuttle when you are staring right at it. 

So, there we are, bug bitten, sweaty, dirty, grumpy, etc. wondering if the guys that cut in the line were going to get a better position to take pictures.  Suddenly,  everything comes to a stop.  Everything except the RSS itself, which is quietly moving at 20 feet per minute.  This slow but complex move finally reveals the Endeavour in all her glory.  Instantly, you’re a kid again.  I can taste the Tang I used to drink thinking about becoming an astronaut.  I remember creating astronaut costumes out of pajamas.  I remember building a structure out of chairs and blankets that simulated early versions of the Shuttle.  Like a quick rack focus, everything unimportant drops out of focus and all that is clear is brilliant engineering.

I don’t know much, but I know that anyone who has any doubts about what NASA is doing, simply hasn’t been to a space shuttle launch.


NASA EDGE on Facebook and MySpace

NASA EDGE now has a Facebook and MySpace page.  We already have many friends on our site and we continue to add more daily.  It’s great to meet new people who have a strong interest in NASA and space exploration.  I am new to the Facebook and MySpace world but my goofy co-host and marketing director seem to be on top of things.  If you have any advice on how a digital immigrant (host) can turn into a digital native (younger generation) then please pass the advice along.


NE@The Gantry

NASA EDGE has launch a new feature called NE@.  These short segments will take a quick look at the exciting research and testing taking place at NASA.  The first short segment, NE@The Gantry takes an inside look at an airbag test for the orion crew module. 

The team at NASA EDGE would like to hear your feedback on this new feature.  The plan is to produce a NE@ in between each new show.  Actually the reason why we are doing this is so that Blair can get the NASA 101 diploma much faster.


NASA EDGE and Genesis II

This is my absolute favorite photo from the upper atmosphere. 

I had no idea that the folks at Genesis II were such fans of the show… or of the Co-Host.

NASA EDGE is clearly breaking new ground here.  This is our first official recognition by the space tourism industry.  If they had contacted me, I could have provided them with a photo.  As it stands, I’ll take the name.

So what is Genesis II?  If you’re like me, you probably thought it was a device that turned small moons into planets that sustain life.  As it turns out, that is not the case.  Genesis II is an experimental space habitat launched by Bigelow Aerospace just last week.  Though it is unmanned, it does include pictures and items provided by paying customers as part of their “Fly Your Stuff” program.

The real purpose, however, is to test systems that will be available on future Bigelow projects… ultimately a space hotel. 

So, what does the future hold?  Clearly a front row seat to observe NASA’s missions from the marvelously appointed “Blair” observation pod.  Ok.  That isn’t true, but a Co-Host can dream, can’t he?

The Co-Host

NASA EDGE Wins MoonBuggy Race…

Victory is Sweet!!!!!

We won. 

It wasn’t easy, but we kicked moonbuggy this morning.  Granted, I actually didn’t actually drive or ride in the winning buggy.  I was simply the coach, but I am extremely proud of both Chris and Brandon.  Their dedication, hard work, and commitment to ‘energy drinks’ paid dividends today.  As their coach, I want to celebrate them in pictures.

We have the best fans on the planet.

Brandon had his own subset of fans.  Nice picture, but has he listened to his coach?  We will see.

It was very tense at the starting line.  The time to beat…  2:28.

Nano seconds after this pic, the NASA EDGE Team recorded the winning time.

My son told me that our unofficial time was 2:21… turned out he was right.

Brandon, you didn’t just survive.  You rocked!  And so did Chris.  Good job guys.

Next year, we tackle the moon buggy track at Marshall Space Flight Center.  Kind of like coaching the college and the professional game.

Maybe they’ll make us honorary moon buggy testers for our return to the Moon.  Man, I love NASA.

The Co-Host.

Official Buggy Specs Revealed

Very interesting!  It seems that even the Buggy designers recognize NASA EDGE’s dominance in the upcoming competition.

Seriously, it is good to finally see the race vehicle.  Brandon is in the middle of intense training.  We discovered yesterday that he is extremely allergic to all energy drinks.  He was able to run a 40 yard dash in 3.9 seconds, but his calves ballooned up to the size of cantelopes.  So, for the record, NASA EDGE does not endorse the use of energy drinks of any kind.  We are water only from here on out.

Today, Brandon has refused to run.  Not a good sign for NASA EDGE, but a small window of opportunity for the competition.

On a lighter note, we are considering a funraiser.  You can sponsor Brandon and the NASA EDGE Team by the meter.  Anyone interested in supporting a good cause, call 757-864-1296.

The Co-Host