Life in a Space Capsule: Every Cubic Centimeter Counts.

Burbank, CA February 26, 2007: Inside the Habitability Design Center at Johnson Space Center, you’ll find the spacecraft that will take humans back to the Moon in 2018. But you might be surprised to learn that it’s made of two-by-fours and foam core.

According to NASA Engineer Robert Howard, such mock-ups are essential to help designers—and potential passengers—consider all of the issues that might come up when four human beings make a 5-day journey outside the earth’s atmosphere in very tight quarters.

Dr. Howard, and the spacecraft, are featured in The Futures Channel’s newest micro-documentary, “The Orion Space Capsule.” Produced so as to give students, teachers, and anyone else who is interested an inside look at NASA’s engineering process, this latest release dramatically illustrates the need for a future workforce that is well grounded in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. “Pretty much every field of science and math known to humankind are involved in designing a rocket,” Dr. Howard says in his interview. Howard is both an aerospace engineer and an industrial engineer.

Over the next 10 years, engineers will build the first spacecraft since 1972 to take the US back to the Moon. Inspired by the capsule design of the Apollo spacecraft, the Orion will have more than two and a half times the volume of its predecessor. “Designing a spacecraft is extremely complicated,” Howard says. “In order to land crew on the moon in 2018, we’ve got to start now.”

“We do a lot of work with measurements, lengths, widths, diameters, volumes – all sorts of dimensions,” Howard explains. “Subjects like algebra and geometry really do have a practical application here.”

Since 1999, The Futures Channel has been providing educators with video programs that connect classroom math and science to real world worksites and careers. David Kassner, a high school science teacher from Georgia, is one of many teachers who previewed the movie. He said that Howard does “a good job connecting the dots between what he does now and what he learned in school.”

For Howard his interest in the field of aerospace was sparked at a young age. “I’ve always been interested in spacecraft ever since I was little,” he says. “Space was in my blood from the beginning.”

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