Transcript for NASA Connect - Wired For Space


[Jeff] Few things are as
exhilarating as heading

around the racetrack at just
under 200 miles per hour.

Hi. Welcome aboard the number
24 Dupont Chevy Monte Carlo.

I'm Jeff Gordon.

It takes a lot to win a NASCAR race
like science, technology and math.

There's a whole lot more to
it than just counting laps.

You also need plenty
of something else.

Fuel. During an average race my
race car burns 100 gallons of fuel.

Guess how many gallons
this car uses?

None. Instead it uses electricity.

NASA is working on cutting edge
technology using electricity

to propel a spacecraft
instead of using fuel.

To do that, NASA will use the power
of math, science and technology

but hold on race fans.

There's a string attached.

Ladies and gentlemen,
start your engines

for this episode of NASA CONNECT.


[Van] Hey there.

Welcome to NASA CONNECT, the show
that connects you to the world

of math, science,
technology, and NASA.

I'm Van Houghs.

[Jennifer] And I'm Jennifer Pulley.

Today, we're at Disney MGM
studios in Orlando, Florida.

We are your hosts.

Along with Norbert.

Any time Norbert appears, have your
cue cards from the lesson guide

and your brain ready to answer
the questions he gives you

and teachers every time
Norbert appears with the remote,

that's your cue to
pause the videotape

and discuss the key card
questions he gives you.

[Van] Fasten your seat belt.

[Jennifer] On today's show, we'll
learn how NASA researchers collect

and measure data, recognize
patterns, develop functions

and use Algebra to solve problems.

[Van] Then they compare the results

and predict how the technology
will perform in space.

Plus you will simulate
NASA research and learn all

about magnetic forces and
how they cause motion.

[Jennifer] And you know what?

You are going to be doing all
of this in your classroom.

[Van] It is going to
be a thrilling ride.

[Jennifer] Later Dr. Shelley
Canwrite will get you hooked

up to this shows web activity.

Today's NASA CONNECT program
features patterns, functions,

and algebra to get
you wired for space.

[Van] Did you know that NASA
researchers use math, science,

and technology everyday to make
sure space transportation is safe

and reliable?

[Jennifer] That's right
and more affordable, too.

[Van] You know, NASA
connects has sent us

on some pretty cool locations

but Disney MGM's rocking roller
coaster starring Aerosmith is

definitely a gas.

[Jennifer] Gas?

Not gas, Van.

This coaster uses state of the
art electromagnetic motors.

[Van] electromagnetic?

You mean this roller coaster runs
on electricity and magnetism?

[Jennifer] Exactly.


[Jennifer] Electricity is one of
the fundamental forces of nature

that we use to make
things work for us.

Magnetism is the force
of attracting

or repelling magnetic materials.

Magnets have the power to
pull things toward them

but they can also push
or repel things away.

When you connect the power of
electricity with the strength

of magnetism, you can make an
electromagnetic motor like the one

that gets your clothes
clean in the washer.

Today, we're learning how
electricity and magnetism are used

for what you might call
another type of spin cycle:

Propelling spacecraft into orbit.

[Van] Oh man.

That was so awesome.

[Jennifer] That was intense.

[Van] Now tell me how does a
roller coaster like this relate

to NASA and spacecrafts?

Not that I'm complaining,
but I want to ride it again.

[Jennifer] Okay.

We will. Hang on.

Let me tell you.

NASA is working on a way to propel
spacecraft into orbit and get this,

they're using a track very similar
to this roller coaster track.

[Van] All right.

All right.

[Jennifer] Hey, let's
propel ourselves

over to NASA Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville,

Alabama and check it out.

[Van] Jennifer, this is supposed
to be like a roller coaster?

Where are the loops?

[Jennifer] Well, it's not like
a roller coaster in that way,

Van but it does use some of
the same scientific principles.

This is Jose Perez.

He's the launch assist project
manager from Kennedy Space Center

in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

[Jose] Thanks, Jennifer.

Getting into space is
expensive and the first part

of the trip cost the most.

That's where this track comes in.

It is used for magnetically
propelling a spacecraft.

Like magnets, electricity
has a similar push

and pull called charges;
in fact, electricity

and magnetism are a lot alike

because they are really
the same force of nature.

We're just used to thinking of
them as two different things.

That's where or mag lev or
magnetic levitation coming in.

[Van] Okay.

So, what is magnetic levitation?

[Jose] Magnetic levitation

or mag lev is a new
technology being developed

for high speed trains.

Instead of running on metal
wheels these new trains float

or levitate above the track.

[Van] Levitate?

[Jennifer] Yeah, how
does that happen?

[Speaker] Well, electromagnets
in the track levitate

and propel the vehicle down the
track without any direct contact.

[Van] Cool.

I get it. Electrical charges
are like magnetic poles

that repel each other and
pushes it down the track.

[Jose] Exactly the magnetic
levitated spacecraft will leave the

track traveling around
600 miles per hour

and then reach orbit
using rocket power.

[Student] What kind
of test do they use?

speak were.

[Student] Were there any
patterns in the results?

[Student] What kind of graph
resulted from the data?

[Jose] One of the things that we
test is how much force is being

produced by our electromagnets.

To find the force, we use this
equation F equals N times A.

Where F is the force, M is the
mass and A is the acceleration.

Acceleration is increase
of speed over time.

We put sensors aboard
or test vehicle

that measure its acceleration.

Since we already know the
mass of our test vehicle,

if we multiply the
acceleration by the mass,

we can determine the force.

Taking those numbers and
producing line graphs,

we can show the forces
on our test vehicle.

The pattern that develops help
us protect the performance

for future space vehicles.

[Van] Wow, that's a pretty
exciting ing way to you use math.

You use math everyday, right?

[Speaker] Yes, and we also
share our results with people

in the industry and
other NASA centers.

By looking at our results, they can
understand how much the carrier is

accelerating and how much force
the track magnets are generating

because we speak the common
language of mathematics,

we can share what we learn
and we learn from each other.

[Jennifer] Well, that's
pretty neat.

I mean NASA uses electromagnets
and this track

to help them develop new ways to
propel a spacecraft into orbit.

And you know what?

NASA is also using
electricity, magnetism and tethers

to help them propel
spacecraft already in orbit.

[Van] Wait.

You said tethers like
tetherball with the pole

and the rope attached to the ball.

[Jennifer] Absolutely.

Some other examples of tethers
besides tetherball are the elastic

string that keeps a paddle ball
on a paddle, a fishing line

that keeps a fish on a
pole and even a leash

that keeps a dog close
to its owner.

[Van] Maybe you can think
of some more examples.

You know NASA has
been using tethers

and conducting experiments
in space for years.

[Jennifer] You're, right.

In fact, in the 1960's, the
Gemini astronauts use tethers

to connect their spacecraft
to another unoccupied rocket.

[Van] The 1960's.

Far out, man.

What? Over the years
NASA has learned

that connecting two spacecraft
together opens up a whole new world

of possibilities like
propelling a spacecraft.

One person who knows
all about tethers

in space is physicist
Les Johnson and he works

at NASA Marshall Space
Flight Center.

[Les] Thanks, Van.

We are testing a new that doesn't
need any rocket engines or fuel.

Instead it will use the earth's
magnetic field to help push

or pull on the spacecraft.

[Jennifer] All magnetic objects
form invisible lines of force

that extend between the
poles of the object.

A magnetic field is the
space around the magnet

where your feel its force.

Magnetic field lines extends and
radiate between the earth's north

and south poles and between
the poles of the magnet.

[Les] Basically the
earth's magnetic field works

with a special type of work

or conductor called an
electrodynamic tether to push

or pull on the object.

The electrons that make up
the electric current flowing

through the conductor will
experience a force when they move

through a magnetic
field like the earth's.

Since they're trapped in
the conducting wire tether,

the force will be
applied to the tether

and whatever's attached to it.

Depending upon the direction in
which the current is flowing,

this force can be a push
or the pull either lowering

or raising a spacecraft's orbit.

[Jennifer] So, the direction

of the current determines
whether it is pushing or pulling.

[Van] And the more
current, the more force.

[Les] Right.

In fact, NASA Marshall is working
on a project called ProSEDS

which uses earth's magnetic
field to push or pull

on the attached tether.

When the tether moves,
so does the spacecraft.

[Jennifer] Les, ProSEDS
is an acronym, right?

What does it stand for?

[Les] ProSEDS stands for Propulsive
Small Expendable Deployer System.

Space exploration is
limited largely by the cost

of launching payloads.

Finding a cheaper way to explore
space is always very important

to us.

Typically a rocket will place
its payload into lower orbit

and from there propellant
fuel thrusters have

to boost it to a higher altitude.

ProSEDS is one experiment
that focuses on the technology

to cut the expense of placing
a payload into its final orbit.

[Van] Sounds like ProSEDS
can be a nice alternative

to using rocket engines
and lots of fuel.

[Les] Absolutely.

Electrodynamic tethers could one
day be used as cheap, lightweight

and reliable way to remove
space junk from orbit,

keep the international
space station in orbit,

and even power missions
at other planets.

[Van] Wow.

This can get us to other planets?

[Les] Tethers offer us
unlimited possibilities, Van.

That's why I'm all charged
up about this project.

[Jennifer] You know,
students in Baton Rouge,

Louisiana are also charged up
about today's classroom activity.

[Students] Hi.

We're from the Middle Magnet
School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

[Student] NASA CONNECT asked
us to help you understand how

to do the student
activity for this program.

[Student] Earlier we learned

that the NASA process experiment
uses long conducting wires

called tethers.

The tethers make electricity that
can be used to move satellites.

Now, we're going to simulate
the research they do at NASA

by constructing and using the make

and go electrodynamic
demonstration unit

or EDU for short.

[Student] First, let's
make the EDU.

The materials you need:
Magnets, batteries, wire,

and very small lightbulbs,
called light emitting diodes,

are inexpensive and easy to find.

Remember safety is our
number one concern at NASA.

So, be sure to listen carefully
and follow the safety guidelines.

Now that the EDU is made,

you'll need to make an
electrical current level controller

for the EDU.

The current controller is
made using only regular paper

and a set of five resistors.

Be sure that all your wires
are connected correctly.

This will correct what is
called a closed circuit

that allows the electricity to
flow freely through the EDU.

Now, you are ready to observe and
predict what happens to the light

from the LED when you change the
amount of electricity flowing

through the circuit of your EDU.

If the wires are not connected
properly, an open circuit exists

in the flow of the electricity
throught the EDU is broken.

As a class, discuss whether there's
a pattern to describe what happens

to the brightness of the light
when electricity level increases.

[Student] The EDU is a model of
the actual propulsion system tested

in the ProSEDS mission.

You will use the EDU to
observe and understand

if a wire has electricity
flowing through it,

the wire can actually move if
it is placed near a magnet.

You'll measure, record,
and graph the relationship

between the electric current
and wire coil movement.

Then you analyze the results,
just like NASA researchers do.

[Student] Next construct the coil
as directed in the lesson guide.

Add the wire coil along
with the magnet to the EDU.

Observe what happens to
the wire coils motion

when the magnet is present.

Looking at your previous
set of test results,

what do you think will
happen to the wire coil

when the current level increases?

Change the current levels and
measure and record the distance

that the wire coil
moves at each level.

Each time you test
a new current level,

compare the results
with your classmates.

Average the test results
at each current level.

[Student] After you
have completed testing,

your teacher will get you started

on graphing your data then
help you understand how

to analyze your results.

[Speaker] Great work, class.

But how can we display the data
that we have collected on a graph?

Think about the information
we're comparing.

Now that we have our graph labeled,

one person from each
group should come up

and graph the average distance the
coil moved at each current level.

This looks great.

What type of graph is this?

A bar graph?

A line graph a scatter plot?

What was the maximum
distance our wire coil moved?

What current level produced
the greatest movement?

Why do you think this is so?

[Speaker] Class, can you guess

which electricity level
the circuit is set on based

on how far the wire coil is moving?

[Student] If I run some more
tests, I know I can find out.

[Students] Yeah.

Let's make it go again.

[Van] Man, those kids look like
they were having a lot of fun.

[Jennifer] And learning a lot, too.

[Les] Well, just like NASA CONNECT
teamed up with a school to learn

about electromagnetism, NASA
has teamed up with a University

to help us understand
propulsion in space.

[Jennifer] Hey, let's head
to the University of Michigan

and see what they
have been working on.

[Brian] I'm professor Brian
Gilcrest with a University

of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

[Jane] And I'm Jane
Owyler, a graduate student

in space systems engineering
here at the University.

[Brian] My students were
asked to design build

and test very small
spacecraft that will be used

to with NASA's ProSEDS
tether mission.

ProSEDS is demonstrating a new
kind of propulsion technology

that does not require
any rocket engines.

It uses the earth's
magnetic field to help push

and pull on spacecraft.

ProSEDS will pull down a
large, used up rocket stage.

[Jane] We named the
satellite Icarus

after the character
from Greek mythology.

As you might know, Icarus and
his father Daedalus were trying

to escape from Crete using
wings that they had built.

Icarus flew too close
to the sun and the wax

that was holding his
wings on melted

and he fell into the Agean Sea.

The ProSEDS mission will be
successful if it can rapidly bring

down the rocket engine from
orbit which will ultimately burn

up in the atmosphere falling
from the ski just like Icarus.

The Icarus satellite will pull
out 15 kilometers of tether

from the deployer
and the instruments

on board will measure the
location of the end of the tether,

the end mass, and
spacecraft attitude.

[Speaker] Did she say attitude?

[Jane] Not that kind of attitude.

I mean the position of the
spacecraft relative to the earth.

[Speaker] Right Jane.

The students designed
this satellite

to collect this information and
transmit the data to the ground.

Mission scientists will
use this information

to better understand the
dynamics of tether systems.

[Jane] To build our satellite,
we used computer design tools

and a lot of discussions
and mentoring

from experienced engineers
and faculty at Michigan,

the NASA Marshall
Space Flight Center,

and from industry
partners such as TWR.

After the design work,
various mechanical

and electrical components
were purchased or built.

These pieces were carefully put
together and then we were able

to begin a long list of
tests to see if it was going

to work the way we wanted it to.

[Brian] At the same time we
were designing the hardware,

we were developing
the computer software.

Not everything worked the
first time as is typical

of anything new being developed.

So, we had to consider
what could have gone wrong,

read through the notes
and journals to check

that we did everything
right and then try again.

Sure enough.

Some changes had to be made to get
it ready for delivery and flight.

Each step required careful planning
to accomplish the special steps

that we mentioned earlier.

The tests were done here
at our labs and at Michigan

and at the Marshall
Space Flight Center.

[Van] How did you gather the data?

[Jane] Electronic sensors
were often used in our tests

to make the critical
measurements necessary to know

that the Icarus satellite
was still working correctly

but other data collection involved
just looking at the satellite

to see that for example our
solar cells were not broken

and sometimes we had to measure
how much power the solar panels

could generate or how much power
our radio transmitter was sending

to its antenna.

[Van] Wait a minute.

They're in Michigan.

[Jennifer] And we're at the
Marshall Space Flight Center

in Huntsville, Alabama.

How do they do that?

[Brian] Good communication

in a project like this
is very important.

When the students were designing
and building their spacecraft,

they communicated with their NASA
partners using presentations,

written reports and through
e-mail using the internet.

Later as were collecting data,
we dealt with the test reports

that showed how the satellite
and its instruments performed

by using patterns, functions and
algebra they were able to prove

to themselves and NASA that
the Icarus satellite was ready

for flight.

Being able to understand
data in the form of charts

and graphs is a lot
easier than descriptions.

Mathematics is really like another
language, a language that all

of our partners need to
understand to be able to understand

to be able to work together.

[Student] How is algebra
used to find a solution?

[Student] How are
arrays used in algebra?

[Student] What algebraic
equation shows

that voltage is related to current?

[Van] Hey, guys.

Meet Leslie Curtis.

She's an engineer
here at NASA Marshall.

[Leslie] Thanks, Van.

Dr. Gilcrest is right.

Mathematics is one of
the most powerful tools

that we have available
to us at NASA.

We use algebra almost everyday to
find solutions to our problems.

This is the Icarus satellite
that Jane told us about.

It uses solar cells to
charge its batteries.

Solar cells which convert sunlight
into electricity are arranged

in a pattern called an array.

One of the ways that
equations can be written

in algebra is also
called an array or matrix.

Actually they look a lot alike.

Let's compare them.

Here's an example of an
array used in algebra.

Notice the pattern
of rows and columns.

Now here's a picture
of the solar array.

See the rows and columns again?

Let's use the solar arrays
on the Icarus satellite

to do a simple math problem that
the students at the University

of Michigan were faced with.

Then let's compare solar
arrays with algebraic arrays.

The Icarus satellite
uses 12-volt batteries.

Voltage is a measurement
of electricity.

If we use a solar array to charge
our batteries we know from science

that we need to have a solar array
voltage that is slightly higher

than the 12-volt batteries.

So, let's say 15-volts.

To calculate the number of
solar cells we would need

for the array, we use algebra.

And since each Icarus solar cell
provides 0.5 or a half a volt

of charge, how many cells do
we need for our solar array

to produce the 15 volts?

If we solve for C, which
stands for the number of cells,

we see 30 cells to give us 15 volts

to successfully charge
the batteries.

From this information, we
can arrange our solar cells

in a solar array pattern.

[Van] Cool.

Like ten cells wide
by three cells high?

[Jennifer] Or 15 cells
wide by two cells high.

[Leslie] So you see when
scientists are trying

to calculate complicated equations
we often write them in the pattern

of an algebraic array.

[Jennifer] That's great.

So, you use patterns and
algebra to determine the amount

of solar cells in an array.

But let me ask you this.

How long does it take for solar
cells to charge Icarus's batteries.

[Leslie] Well, that question can
be answered using algebra, also.

We know that the charge

on the Icarus satellite battiers
is related to current and time.

Current is another measure of
electricity, which is expressed

in units called amperes
or amps for short.

Now to calculate the amount of time
needed to charge the batteries,

we use the following equation.

Charge is equal to
current times time.

Since we want to know
the length of time needed

to charge the batteries,
we can rewrite the equation

as time is equal to
charge divided by current.

The Icarus satellite batteries
have a maximum charge capacity

of 2.5-amp hours.

A typical charging
current that we might use

to charge the system is 0.5-amps.

So, if the charge is 2.5-amp
hours and the current is 0.5 amps,

the equation can be
written this way.

Time is equal to 2.5-amp
hours divided by 0.5-amps.

Solving for time, we can
see that the time required

to reach full charge on
the system is five hours.

[Van] Okay.

Let me see if I got this straight.

We use voltage as a way
of measuring electricity

when we're talking about
the solar array and current

to describe electricity when we're
calculating the time it takes

to recharge the batteries.

But how are voltage
and current related.

[Leslie] Voltage and
current are related

by the simple equation V equals IR.

V stands for voltage which
is usually measured in volts.

I is the current which is
usually measure in amps

and R is called the resistance.

The resistance is measured
in units called Ohms

and the equation V equal IR
is actually called Ohm's law

after G.S. Ohm, a German
scientist and the unit

of resistance was
named in his honor.

[Van] You know, I
think it's pretty sweet

that the university students
used algebra to work with NASA

on the ProSEDS experiment but
I don't really get the volts

and amps and resistance.

[Jennifer] Oh, my.

[Van and Jennifer] Volts
and amps and resistance.

Oh, my.

[Jennifer] Get it Dorothy and --

[Van] I get it.

[Jennifer] I just couldn't resist.

Nor could we resist the chance
to meet some students who teamed

up with NASA CONNECT and are
wired for today's web activity.

[Shelley] Hey gang.

Hey Norbert.

Welcome to St. Louis, Missouri.

I'm standing here in front of
the St. Louis Science center,

our museum partner for this show.

This science center is a 232,000
square foot building facility

that's connected by a
bridge in the tunnel.

It contains 11 galleries, over
650 exhibits an Omni Max theater,

plantarium, discovery room and
live science presentations.

In a moment, we are going to
go inside to meet the students

from the Compton Drew
Investigative learning center

and the AIAA student chapter from
the University of Washington/St.

Louis. These students
are going to highlight

for us the web based activities

which complements this
NASA CONNECT video program.

[Speaker] But first,
let's take a quick fly

by of Norbert's online lab.

There are a couple of areas of
this lab worth investigating.

Teachers, the lab manager section
is designed especially for you.

Here you will find
scenarios and tools

that connects web activity
into the classroom.

Another excellent resource for
integrating technology officially

into the cirriculum is
E-Pals classroom exchange.

As a connect partner, it
offers free web-based e-mail

and an online classroom
community of over 130 countries

with whom you might communicate
and collaborate on class projects,

such as those projects suggested
in the CONNECT programs.

A. Well, here we are now inside
the St. Louis Science Center

and waiting already to take
us into the wild blue yonder

of the Internet and this CONNECT
shows web activity are our guest

middle and university students.

The web module that they will
share has been contributed

by Princeton Universities
Interactive Plasma Physics

Education Experience or IPPEX.

[Speaker] IPPEX has created several
interactive modules including one

on electricity and magnetism.

This module will introduce you to
many of the basic concepts involved

with electricity and magnetism
like static charge, moving charge,

voltage, resistance, and current.

This site combines multimedia with
built in interactive exercises

to help you better
understand the concepts.

For instance, you can rub a
balloon on a wool sweater to learn

about static electricity.

Use a slider bar to
see what happens

with similar charges on balloons.

Build and complete a circuit.

[Shelley] So, there you have it.

Take a website, add
interactivity, subtract complexity,

and multiply excitement.

The E solution is simple.

Norberts online lab.

It's where education clicks.

Bringing to you the power
of digital learning.

I'm Shelley Canwrite


[Van] There you have it.

I passed you.

[Jennifer] Van, I almost had you.

Well, you know what?

That's about all we
have time for today.

Van, you might have beat
me at slot car racing

but you're definitely
no Jeff Gordon.

[Van] We'd like to thank
everybody who made this episode

of NASA CONNECT possible.

[Jennifer] That's right.

We hope you have all
made the connection

between the NASA research
that's used to propel spacecraft

without the use of fuel and the
math, science and technology

that you do in your
classroom everyday.

[Van] Jennifer and I would
love to hear from you

with your questions or comments.

So, write us at NASA CONNECT,
NASA Langley Research Center,

Mail Stop 400, Hampton,
Virginia 23681

or send us an e-mail

[Jennifer] Teachers, if
you would like a videotape

of this NASA CONNECT program and
the accompanying lesson guide,

check out the NASA CONNECT website.

From our site, you can link to
CORE the NASA Central Operation

of Resources for Educators or link

to the NASA educator
resource center network.

[Van] Until next time.

[Jennifer] Stay connected to math.

[Van] Science.

[Jennifer] Technology and --

[Van] NASA.

[Jennifer] See you then.