Friday, December 5, 2014

Orion Launch Is Topic of Latest HEC-TV Live! Program - Orion: The First Step Into Deep Space

By Carmelo Turdo
Today's successful launch and recovery of the Orion spacecraft on the Exploration Flight Test No. 1 flight captured the hope of America's return to manned space flight in the coming years.  In anticipation of the flight, originally scheduled for Thursday, HEC-TV partnered with the Challenger Learning Center St. Louis and other local aerospace experts to produce an HEC-TV Live! program yesterday from 9am-noon during the launch and recovery window of the planned mission.  Even without the actual mission launch, the program proved to be an excellent learning experience for those participating live and it will be available for the public audience through future access to the archives.  The Aero Experience was privileged to be present during the production of the live program, and we now take you behind the scenes to meet the guest experts and those involved in making the program possible.

HEC-TV Live! programs offer opportunities for students around the country to interact with experts in various fields with hundreds of their peers.  Students are able to view the presentations, ask questions on the air, and in some cases produce background materials used to illustrate concepts discussed.  The HEC-TV crew goes on the road and sets up the stage for the program at a location that best illustrates the subject matter and accommodates the guest speakers.  In this case, the Challenger Learning Center was a great choice to host the Orion Mission launch as it showcased the St. Louis connection to past manned space flight programs and provided the mission control training facility for the on-site activities.  This particular event included a middle school class student audience that not only witnessed the live studio program and asked questions of the guest speakers, but also rotated in smaller groups to the mission control room to meet the experts and discuss what it takes to become a contributor to future space programs.  The Aero Experience audience has seen the Challenger Learning Center St. Louis in a recent feature story about the visit to St. Louis by legendary Flight Director Gene Kranz.      

Our day began with the arrival at the Challenger Learning Center St. Louis of the guest speakers around 8:30am.  The set and camera equipment were ready for action in the public gallery reception area, and preparations were under way to be sure that the live program would start promptly at 9am.  Prior to being issued wireless microphones and taking their places on the set, two former McDonnell Aircraft engineers and veterans of the Mercury and Gemini space programs on the 1960s, Mr. Dean Purdy and Mr. Norman Beckel, joined Washington University James S. McDonnell Distinguished Professor Dr. Raymond Arvidson on a brief tour of the mission control and space station work stations used for the simulated space missions regularly held at the facility with student groups.   

(L-R) Tasmyn Front, Director of Challenger Learning Center St. Louis,
with Mercury and Gemini space program veterans Norman Beckel
and Dean Purdy in the space station simulator 

The live program began promptly at 9am, and at that time the launch of the Orion spacecraft had been delayed three hours and it was cancelled for the day not long afterward.  The program's host, Tim Gore, began with the discussion with Dean Purdy and Norman Beckel, drawing parallels between the Orion program development and the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs of the past.  Then Dr. Arvidson took the stage and discussed his specialty - his work with the series of Mars landers and advanced rovers that have led to breakthrough discoveries about the red planet.  Following the in-studio guests, there was a webcast with former astronaut Dr. Linda Godwin, a Cape Girardeau, MO native who flew four missions aboard the Space Shuttle between 1991 and 2001.  She gave her views on the future return of U.S. manned space program and gave the students a first-hand view of the effects of space on humans.  Students present at the Challenger Learning Center St. Louis rotated to the breakout sessions throughout the program.

Norman Beckel and Dean Purdy with host Tim Gore ready to start

Dr. Arvidson joins Robert Powell and Tim Gore on stage

Middle School students in the audience during the program
Tasmyn Front with Norman Beckel and Dean Purdy in Mission Control

L-R: McDonnell Aircraft Engineer Dean Purdy, Challenger Learning Center
St. Louis Education Coordinator Robert Powell, Washington University
James S. McDonnell Distinguished Professor Dr. Raymond Arvidson,
HEC-TV host Tim Gore, and McDonnell Aircraft Engineer Norman Beckel.

Check the HEC-TV Live! web site in about a week to watch the archive of this program.  Special thanks to the HEC-TV crew, Challenger Learning Center staff and our special guests!        

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