AEDC STEM, Matty and NASA make a connection

The Manchester Westwood Middle School science teacher Deb Wimberley (left) uses her phone for her students to communicate with the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) X crew members during a simulated space mission May 5 at Johnson Space Center in Houston. AEDC STEM Center coordinator Jere Matty facilitated the communication. (Courtesy photo)

The Manchester Westwood Middle School science teacher Deb Wimberley (left) uses her phone for her students to communicate with the Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) X crew members during a simulated space mission May 5 at Johnson Space Center in Houston. AEDC STEM Center coordinator Jere Matty facilitated the communication. (Courtesy photo)

Crew members for the NASA Human Exploration Research Analog simulation mission stand in front of the habitat for program. HERA is a high-fidelity mission simulation environment operated by NASA’s Human Research Program at the Johnson Space Center, Texas. HERA missions provide the operational setting for important HRP research aimed at reducing the risks to astronauts on future space exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit. HERA X “launched” on May 2 for a 30-day mission to the near-Earth asteroid “Geographos.” The four crew members are (left to right): Chris Matty of Houston, Texas; Oscar Mathews of Virginia Beach, Va.; Ron Franco of Lockport, N.Y.; and Casey Stedman of Olympia, Wash. (NASA Photo)

Crew members for the NASA Human Exploration Research Analog simulation mission stand in front of the habitat for program. HERA is a high-fidelity mission simulation environment operated by NASA’s Human Research Program at the Johnson Space Center, Texas. HERA missions provide the operational setting for important HRP research aimed at reducing the risks to astronauts on future space exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit. HERA X “launched” on May 2 for a 30-day mission to the near-Earth asteroid “Geographos.” The four crew members are (left to right): Chris Matty of Houston, Texas; Oscar Mathews of Virginia Beach, Va.; Ron Franco of Lockport, N.Y.; and Casey Stedman of Olympia, Wash. (NASA Photo)

The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) is shown here at the Johnson Space Center, Texas. This modular three-story habitat was designed and created through a series of university competitions. The HERA serves as an analog for simulation of isolation, confinement and remote conditions of mission exploration scenarios. Westwood Middle School students in Manchester recently spoke with crew members on the HERA X mission by phone, which was made possible by the AEDC STEM Center coordinator, Jerry Matty. (NASA Photo)

The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) is shown here at the Johnson Space Center, Texas. This modular three-story habitat was designed and created through a series of university competitions. The HERA serves as an analog for simulation of isolation, confinement and remote conditions of mission exploration scenarios. Westwood Middle School students in Manchester recently spoke with crew members on the HERA X mission by phone, which was made possible by the AEDC STEM Center coordinator, Jerry Matty. (NASA Photo)

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN -- The AEDC Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Center coordinator Jere Matty recently facilitated communication between the Manchester Westwood Middle School and the NASA HERA X, or the Human Exploration Research Analog tenth crew, during a ground-simulated mission.

Matty's son, Chris, is a participant in HERA X with three crew members. The crew's mission is to perform day-to-day activities until their arrival at the Geographos asteroid where their simulated mission ends.

HERA is part of the NASA Flight Analogs Project that conducts research using a ground-based facility that provides simulated scenarios and environments similar to what would be encountered during a space exploration mission. This mission, located in a large high bay building at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Texas, began May 2 and lasted 30 days.

Matty said most mission astronauts interact with an educational institution during a mission and Westwood Middle School was chosen for the HERA X mission.

"About a month prior to the HERA X mission, the participants were asked if they knew of a school that might want to participate in this event," Matty said. "My son, who's on the mission, mentioned that I work with a lot of schools through our STEM Program and then they contacted me."

Westwood Middle School science teacher Deb Wimberley used her phone for the communications while students asked questions about the mission to the crew on the receiving end.

The interaction gave the students a glimpse of space missions.

"I believe it's very important for the students to see how exciting space travel is and that it will be a big part of their future," Matty said. "I mentioned that although this HERA X mission is a simulation, when the students from Westwood are older, they will be actually going on missions like this to explore asteroids and other planets."

The HERA is a three-story, four-port habitat unit with a cylindrical shape containing a core section, loft section, airlock and hygiene module. The habitat accommodates four people. Their only communications is with mission control personnel and communications become delayed as simulations place the module further away from the launch site. HERA missions began in 2014 and range from a seven to 60-day duration to examine human performance of astronauts during spaceflight.

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