AEDC STEM, Matty and NASA make a connection

  • Published
  • By Raquel March
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.