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Title of the Plenary: Interactive Video Conference

Speakers: Dr. Robert Lindbergh

Erin Mckinley

Katie Coleman

Students of Bolivia

Students of Ron Clark Academy

Israel Hernandez

Time & Location: Monday June 11 th, 2007 10:30-11:00 a.m.

As Delivered

Dr. Lindbergh: Assistant Secretary Hernandez thank you. Secretary Gutierrez thank you for the invitation, it’s my pleasure to join everyone here in Atlanta in supporting the first America’s Competitiveness Forum. At the National Institute of Aerospace education and workforce development is one of the three core missions of the institute. NIA is a non-profit research and education institute that was formed in 2002 by a consortium of leading research universities including Georgia Tech here in Atlanta. Originally conceived by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA, today we conduct research in science and technology for NASA and for a wide range of U.S. government agencies, in partnership with universities, with other research institutes, and with industry nationwide and worldwide. NIA also offers a unique resident graduate education program that provides students in engineering and the sciences the opportunity to conduct research in NASA’s laboratories on projects at the cutting edge of aviation, space exploration, 21 st century technologies, global climate change, and space science. While workforce training for NASA and for industry at the graduate level is a primary focus of our institute, we recognize early on in the formation of our organization that education and workforce development is a continuing mission requiring a long-term commitment to the full spectrum of education from kindergarten through university to adult education, training, and even retraining. In our strategic planning we refer to this challenge as the continuum of education. As a result our education and workforce development efforts are very broad ranging. From the development of educational television programming that can used by teachers in the classroom, to summer institutes for teachers designed to equip them with the information in communications technologies to deliver 21 st century science and technology education, to programs that provide real world aerospace engineering career experiences for university faculty. As we seek new opportunities and partners to work with us to address our continuum of education, our aerospace roots at the institute lead us to focus specifically on the challenges of science technology, engineering, and mathematics education at all levels. In the 20 th century it became a standard in the U.S. to expect that the educated public would be literate in mathematics and science; that is having the knowledge to understand the natural world around all of us. In the 21 st century we are now coming to recognize that it is equally important for the educated public to become technologically literate; that is having the knowledge to understand the designed world that is the product of our engineering and pervades our society today. NIA working in collaboration with partners such as the U.S. Department of Commerce, Nortel LearniT, and others is committed to equipping educators and students with science and mathematics resources coupled with 21 st century technologies and skills to ensure their competitiveness in the global market of the future. This morning I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce to you some of our friends at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas who are connecting to us today through NASA’s digital learning network. You’re about to see first hand how 21 st century technology being provided by Nortel, NASA, NIA and others can be used to inform the next generation of learners as they prepare to be our future innovators. As an aside I have to tell you that last Friday I had the great good fortune to attend the latest space shuttle launch out of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a phenomenal sight. People call it a religious experience. While I was there just by chance I met the same astronaut that you’re going to meet by video conference today. She was at that time explaining to two young girls how she prepares for her missions to continue to build the international space station on orbit. So lets now join the students who are on stage with us from the Ron Clark Academy here in Atlanta together with their teachers Kim Bearden and Stan Atkins along with students from Bolivia as they connect with Erin McKinley and astronaut Katie Coleman at NASA in Houston.

Erin McKinley: Well good morning boys and girls. How are you all doing today?

Ron Clark Academy: Good.

Erin McKinley: Wonderful. Well welcome to NASA’s learning network I’m Erin McKinley talking to live from Houston and we have a very special guest with us today. Please say hello to astronaut Katie Coleman, thank you for being with us today.

Katie Coleman: Hi folks. I’m glad to be here. You know I was really interested in hearing basically all this talk about the importance of higher education cause I’ll tell you if you would like to be standing in this spot right here or even better on that space shuttle that launched Friday evening that we all got see higher education is what it is all about. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to put on a spacesuit that designed by anybody that hasn’t done their homework. And really that is what we’re all about at NASA. I come with skills and materials signs. I am a polymer scientist by trade, everyone astronaut is someone who has done something else first and it all starts with that kind of science and math and being curious and also just learning how to learn. That’s what we do; everyday we are doing new things and having to learn new things. And we’re doing that today; we are about to attach the S34 or starboard 34 truss to the space station in about a half an hour.

Erin McKinley: That’s excellent. Well I am so excited to be talking to you students today. We not only have students in Atlanta talking to us live we also have sent in questions from Bolivia as well as all of you joining us on the world wide web, so we will going through all those questions so stay tuned for those. First off lets take a question from Atlanta. Students go ahead.

Ron Clark Academy: Hi I’m Sierra Meadows and I have a question for Ms. Coleman. How are the space missions planned and funded?

K: […] By NASA’s tax dollars and in the case of the international space station it is the cooperation of about 16 countries all getting together to build something that we think is really important to have in space and that is a laboratory up there where we can understand what happens to people when they are in space because we have big plans and those involve you as well. And that is we are on our way back to the Moon to understand more about space travel and eventually on to Mars. And so we need to understand what happens to people, how do we build equipment, what do we make it out of, there is that material science that end of things that’s so near and dear to my heart. So that’s our plans for the future. Right now we have a space mission up there. The space shuttle is docked to the space station as we speak. They have just finished breakfast and they are getting ready to put a new giant piece of the space station onto it. It came up on the back of the space shuttle in the payload bay. The shuttle’s robotic arm pulled it out, handed it to the space station’s robotic arm, which is then going to attach it to the space station. So that’s a big day for and all that starts with a lot of planning and a lot of math and a lot of science. So it starts well in advance.

Ron Clark Academy: Thank you

Erin McKinley: We will come back to you in just a little bit. We are next going to take a question from Bolivia, go ahead.


Bolivia: I’d like to know what happened to the challenger. What were the causes for the tragedy that happened in 1986?

Katie Coleman: The Challenger accident was one where material science came into play in a big way. Our solid rocket boosters are filled with rocket fuel. Rocket fuel feels like the consistency of maybe a pencil eraser. And actually the seals that put all those booster segments together, that stack them all together, the seals that are in between those are also of polymeric substance, one that is affected by temperature and we learned big lessons that about the fact that those seals were affected by temperature and actually could leak and that is what happened in the Challenger accident is that one of those seals leaked and it lead to the loss of the space shuttle and the crew. Now you know we did learn big lessons from that and it to me underlines the importance of your job which is as students to realize that you need to learn everything you can learn and you need to learn how to learn new things. I guarantee you today I am going to learn new things because we’re looking at maybe doing an extra space walk on this mission and tucking in a blanket that has come undone. And my team and I which are part of the robotics team in mission control will be trying to understand how do we do that and we’ll be learning new things. So your job is to learn new things everyday and know that you can learn another new thing tomorrow and it’s my job as well so you’re getting ready to step into these shoes.

Erin McKinley: Excellent question, thank you so much Oscar from Bolivia. And really you think of the phrase “you learn something new everyday” and that really does apply here at NASA doesn’t it?

Katie Coleman: Absolutely, every single day and probably several times a day.

Erin McKinley: That’s right, excellent. Well we will be coming back to Bolivia in just a little bit. Now for all of you viewing our webcast I encourage you to send in questions located on that screen right there. We will be able to answer those questions live on camera. Until then let’s go back to Atlanta. Go ahead students from Ron Clark Academy.

Ron Clark Academy: Hi my name is Zaria White and I have a question for Ms. Coleman. What are the biggest challenges of being a female astronaut?

Katie Coleman: Well I’ll say that being an astronaut is challenging just altogether in that I really have a lot of things to learn. You might think that I’m an astronaut and I know everything about space, about astronomy, about engineering but you know what this head is only so big and it doesn’t know all those things. And so I really have to keep learning things to make sure that I review the ones that I might need today or next week. It’s a very big challenge, so that’s maybe the hardest thing. I would say that the things we need to know are not so hard but there are a lot of them. Now when you ask about the challenge of being a female astronaut I don’t think its that much different than the challenge of being a guy astronaut except for there are still not enough of us. So we are looking for folks like you to join us and certainly you are capable of doing that. I will say that because there are not many of us we are a little more visible. I think it means that if somebody is watching you, you better be showing them you know how to do your job. And so maybe a little bit more pressure in that respect. But you know what its an important job, it’s a privilege to do it and we can only do our best just like you can only do your best in school as well. I look forward to seeing you someday.

Erin McKinley: Wonderful question. By a show of hands from Ron Clark Academy how many of you want to be astronauts? Okay some little hesitant hands, just a few. Well I am looking at the future Lunar and Martian astronauts right now. If you’re between the ages of 5 and 20 you are eligible to be chosen to join the astronaut core and go off to the Moon by the year 2020 and go on to Mars in the years following that. So Katie do you have words of advice for them?

Katie Coleman: Well I think that sometimes you know when you’re in school everyday and you walk into your classroom and you’re going to say learn basic arithmetic or multiplication or algebra or a foreign language or let’s say your English teacher or your language teacher wants you to learn how to say something very correctly or write it very correctly and you think why do I need to do this. You know I want to go to space, I want to be part of the space program, and I want to be part of the team that brings our human species out into outer space to explore. Well I will tell you that you need all those things. And it might not seem like what you do today, those little exercises that you do today count. But I will tell you that they do. You need those tools to be able to communicate in a language, and I mean science and math language, with all the other people around the world to be part of this effort. I myself am learning Russian right now. It is one of the things that a lot of us astronauts are doing because we work very closely with the Russians. And I am practicing handwriting feeling like it may never ever get any better or you know practicing vocabulary and thinking as I listen to my tapes in my car will I ever be able to do this. But every one of those little steps they really do bring you forward and suddenly you look around and realize that you speak those languages, those languages of math, science, of different countries, and they’re all necessary to be part of this team.

Erin McKinley: Wonderful and we are actually going to go to an international location right now, go back to Bolivia and ask another question. Go ahead.

Bolivia: [Spanish]

Bolivia: My question is what comes to your mind as an astronaut when you get to space and you are able to admire and be amazed about what you see?

Katie Coleman: Well I think of looking out the window and especially because this crew just launched two days ago and I’ve been following the mission very closely. I think back to how I felt on my mission when you know eight and half minutes after launch when suddenly everything is floating including you and you get to look out the window and if you look down, just straight down at the earth its like a big geography lesson and it makes you wish very much so that you had paid a lot of attention in geography class because there no lines that show where all the different countries are. Nothing is spelled in capital letters on the map. You’re looking down there and just trying to figure out where in the world you are. And so that’s a geography lesson and it’s also a very interesting lesson in how the earth is doing. We can monitor a lot of things and it is very beautiful. But then if I look out towards the horizon and I see sort of the curve of the earth that’s where I realize that I am in a spacecraft and I am orbiting the earth. It’s a very special place to be and it’s a place I’d like to be for a long time so I am looking forward to maybe someday back on the shuttle or on the space station.

Erin McKinley: That’s so exciting, that’s very exciting. Maybe one day you can be joining these students that you’re talking to right now.

Katie Coleman: And I am hoping that I will see some of them. And by that time, by the time you join us I’ll probably be one of your teachers as opposed to one of the folks going and I’ll be getting you ready.

Erin McKinley: Very exciting. Well something to look forward to students. Well we actually a webcast question right now and its from Magdalina Benitez and she asked “How would you recommend to a parent to introduce sciences to our daughters and what age would you see that being most effective?”

Katie Coleman: Well what’s kind of interesting to me is that as cool as the space program is, in about the fourth grade that’s when somehow from society girls start getting messages that its not cool to show that your very smart and you know all the answers and even that you think your questions are important. And so I would say for parents you know you may think that your six year old is too young to be thinking about science, but your six year old is not too young to be curious. And I say this because I have a six year old. He happens to be a boy who is very curious. You know even cooking is a science experiment and just saying to your child “I wonder why that happens?” “I wonder what happens if we do this?” And cooking, you know you can do a lot with food coloring, although I always encourage you to do that in the sink and not somewhere else having cleaned up a lot of messes in my house. But putting things together and wondering what will happen, I think that that is magical. Making something happen, they like to make a difference. Growing a crystal, letting salt water evaporate. All those experiments that you see in textbooks you know I think that they are very good for your kids and you can try to do them even earlier. And so I say start early because especially for the girls we actually lose them quite early and remind them it’s very cool to be smart.

Erin McKinley: Yes it is. Those are great encouraging words, thank you. Well we are going to back to Atlanta and go ahead with your next question please students.

Ron Clark Academy: My name is Ana Simpson and my question is what is your main goal for mission 117?

Katie Coleman: What a great question because today as I mentioned we are actually attaching another giant piece of the space station. When you see the space station the first thing you kind of notice is a big long piece that goes across the top. That is the truss and that is where all the electronic boxes that actually power the station are kept because out in space that’s where we have the ability to reject the heat that those boxes and computers actually generate. So the space station truss is about this big right now and by the end of two hours it is going to be this big. And that’s really important. Now in the space walks over the next couple of days the space walkers are going to go in and connect all the cables that actually plug in the power between that truss and the old truss and they’re going to extend the giant solar rays which is going to increase the station’s power generation capability. That means they can do more inside, in the cabin. That’s experiments, that’s science, that’s understanding what happens to the body. So we’re increasing our station’s capability. I urge all of you to Google NASA on the web this week after our events today. I want you to listen to this conference because it’s a great conference. But go ahead and look for NASA TV. You can actually do that on your computer and you can listen to the mission live and from about 10 o’clock to 8 o’clock everyday, that’s Texas time, you’re going to see assembly of the international space station by this space shuttle crew. It’s very exciting.

Erin McKinley: And just a very exciting moment right now because we are completing the international space station. When will that be completed?

Katie Coleman: Well by 2010 by default in terms of the shuttle pieces that we’re bringing up. We’re bringing up next is going to be, well there is a lot different pieces, but one of the most important pieces are the new modules by the international partners. We have the European lab that is going to be attached to the space station and we have the Japanese lab that is going to be attached to the space station as well. Now you might think well where are you going to put them so we have a piece called the node and that’s a piece that actually has a lot of places to put things. A lot of new modules and so if we attach to the space station we can actually put something on five of the other sides. So we have a lot of assembly left to do. When we have more modules on there that means we have a bigger crewas well. We’re going to go from a crew of three to a crew of six. An international crew, Russians, Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Canadians, everybody as it should be because it is something that is bigger than really all of us.

Erin McKinley: Absolutely.

Katie Coleman: So a lot of exciting for the future.

Erin McKinley: Very exciting. Again students stay in school, find something that you love to study and maybe one day you can be helping us out here at NASA. Very good. Well we’re going to go back to Bolivia and role another question. Go ahead Bolivia.

Bolivia: [Spanish]

Bolivia: What kind of preparation does an astronaut need to face all the challenges that space travel involves such as dealing with sickness, dealing with research, knowing what you’re doing?

Katie Coleman: Well Maria there are a lot of challenges and they start right where you are sitting right now. You can only do your best. That’s really all anyone can ask of you. And I will tell you that I think my job is very hard and sometimes I do it well and sometimes I don’t. I always try to do my best. Sometimes I don’t do that either and I have to wake up the next day and try harder to do my best. But it starts with basics, math and science, English, languages, all those things. In my job right now as the Chief of Robotics for the Astronaut Office I spend a lot of time doing email. And you might think well why email? Well that’s because it’s my job to communicate to the training community, to the mission control community what we, as astronauts need. I’m using words for that, I am writing very carefully to make sure my meaning is coming across in the way that I intend it to. Whenever I am up in space and I am attaching say the S34 truss to the space station, which they are today, they are reading procedures. Someone wrote those procedures. So I don’t want to underestimate the importance of being able to read and write effectively in your native language as well as all those math skills. Those you know I know you want me to say that you should jump in the simulator and fly in jets and all those things. Those are a part of our preparation, but actually the real preparation is having a solid foundation in the basics, which is math, science, and language.

Erin McKinley: Wonderful, that was a wonderful question. Thank you. We have another question from the web. Daniel asks, “What do you do in the event of a solar radiation event that may penetrate the space station?”

Katie Coleman: Well we have some places in the station that are better shielded than other and that’s actually our quarters, our crew quarters that we actually sleep in. And we will, usually we understand those events in advance and we’ll actually call the crew on the radio and tell them that you know this is time that they need to stay in their cabins. We’re trying to understand a lot more about that kind of radiation so that we can design our ships that will go to the Moon and Mars to be effective shields against that kind of radiation. Probably the hardest thing, biggest challenge in exploration.

Erin McKinley: Excellent question, thank you and kept those questions coming from our webcast. Well I believe we have more time for another round of questions. Are you ready?

Katie Coleman: I’m ready.

Erin McKinley: Okay, well wonderful. Let’s go back to Atlanta.

Ron Clark Academy: Hi my name is Stephen Davis and I have a question. What was your favorite subject in school and how did it get you ready for the NASA program?

Katie Coleman: What was my favorite subject? It was chemistry. I just liked chemistry and I kind of had an intuitive feel for it. And when I first went to college I realize in sort of taking some general courses, somewhere I realized that I could actually major in anything that I wanted to. And that was a big revelation to me. And so I actually started looking at majoring in other things and I thought maybe I should major in the thing that is very much the hardest thing for me. And I majored in electrical engineering for a whole semester. It was hard for me. I could have done it but I didn’t actually like it, I didn’t love it. And I ended up going back to chemistry and saying you know I like this. I have a certain intuition for it, it means something to me, I like to understand it. I think for you finding something that you like no matter which subject it is, pursue that subject, be your best at that subject and I guarantee you the space program has a space for you.

Erin McKinley: Excellent. And in fact students if you think of any job that you could find in a city, you’ll find that very same job here NASA Center.

Katie Coleman: It’s true we’re building cities and states.

Erin McKinley: That’s right and actually we’re working our own little city right here. Wonderful question, thank you for asking. Well let’s go back to Bolivia for their final question. Go ahead.

Bolivia: [Spanish]

Bolivia: My question is we know that NASA uses machines and equipment that get samples and explore space in looking for life in space. We’d like to know if artificial intelligence is involved here, what kind of machines you’re using and how do they operate.

Katie Coleman: I think that might depend on your actual definition of artificial intelligence. You know basically when we’re talking about things like the robots that are on Mars taking samples, helping us understand what is Mars like, and how the vehicles for people to get there, and to live there, and to work there. And so we basically have to take all the things that we think that that machine needs to know and make sure that that machine can know them and can use them. And so I think of that as artificial intelligence and in that way yes they do use artificial intelligence. Whether they come up with these answers on their own I would say no. Right now we feed them everything that they need to know and its up to them to realize I, a machine, am in this situation and this is what I was programmed to do. I’ll have to admit that there are probably folks that know more about that subject and that could probably answer that question better. I’ll tell you something from my point of view of course when we talk about space I would like to send people and I would like to go and I would like for you to go. But we’re not going to get there just by sending people; we need the machines as well. And the machines have to be smart and well designed and we can’t send too many so they have to be very effective and so they have to survive their journey and their landing and all those things. And so our exploration of space is going to be a combination of people and machines. And you can be a part of both of those teams, the people and the machine team because they all need folks that have a good background in science and math and engineering.

Erin Mckinley: That’s a wonderful question and wonderful answer, thank you. Well unfortunately we have run out of time and so do you have any final thoughts for the students?

Katie Coleman: Well I know I sort of lectured you a bit here today about the importance of what you’re doing in school because I think sometimes when your in school its hard to see that and its hard to realize that you know the actual homework assignment that you are struggling with tonight is going to make a difference and make it possible for you to be standing right here with myself or standing in Erin’s place as well. And believe me it will, it does. Every exercise, every homework, every time you open your mind to learn new things and realize you know I know I feel slow but I’m going to get there and all of these things are going to be important. They really are so I encourage you you know have fun at school. I know that might not seem cool but you know enjoy what you’re doing. Your job is to learn and I know you going to do it well and I hope that you’ll join us here at NASA.

Erin McKinley: Wonderful. As do I. Well thank you so much Astronaut Coleman for joining us today and for taking all the questions for the students. I’m sure this is a wonderful situation for them. And students how did you feel about this today?

Ron Clark Academy: Good.

Israel Hernandez: Ms. Coleman can you hear me? Can you hear me? I’m calling from Atlanta. My name is Israel Hernandez, I’m helping moderate and we really want to thank you for your questions. I really enjoyed talking and listening to you. And what’s really interesting for me is I’m the proud brother of a sister who just graduated last month as an aerospace engineer and will start her new job as an aerospace woman engineer in two weeks. But I think that – I really thank you for the questions that you took from Bolivia and from the students here in Atlanta and we’re going to move on to our next session but nonetheless science and your passion to want to learn I think is very evident and we really appreciate your time.

Katie Coleman: Well thanks very much and I just wanted to emphasize after your done with all your sessions there, realize it’s a very exciting week in the space program and go on the web, look for NASA TV. Go on the NASA website, you’ll find it, after the conference of course and following along with us and realize that you could be part of these missions as well and we need you to be ready.