UPDATE: It's time for us to sign off for now. Thanks for all the great questions. Keep following along for updates as we get ready for a 7:05am ET launch of Orion on December 4 from Kennedy Space Center. We will monitor and try to answer a few more questions later.

We are the NASA managers at the helm of three new programs that will allow us to send humans into deep space and ultimately to Mars: the Orion spacecraft, the Space Launch System rocket, and the launch pads and ground systems that support them. NASA will take the next step toward deep space with Orion's first test flight, launching Thursday, and work is already starting on the steps that will follow. Ready to take your questions are:

  • Mark Geyer, program manager for NASA's new spacecraft, Orion
  • Todd May, program manager for NASA's new rocket, Space Launch System
  • Mike Bolger, program manager for NASA's Ground System Development and Operations program, which will provide the launch facilities for Orion and SLS

Learn more about the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System, and Ground Systems for background on all three programs. And get a look at what to expect on Orion's Thursday flight test.

Proof: https://twitter.com/NASA/status/539887102339858434 and https://twitter.com/NASA/status/539902807651135489

Comments: 556 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

WJacobC131 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA! 

What would you all recommend a high school student interested in working for NASA (especially flying, hopefully on the journey to Mars), do in the next few years of their life? Would you recommend the military or civilian route? Any particular universities or programs you would recommend?

Also, how extensive should the video coverage for Thursday's test flight be? Will we be able to see live video all through the flight (minus reentry, of course), or will the feed only cover the launch and landing?

Finally, what role do you see private industry playing in the journey? With CCtCap, etc. the last few years have seen a big increase in the partnership between NASA and private industry, and I'm interested to hear your thoughts. 

Again, thanks!

NASASocial130 karma

First thing I would consider is studying Math and Science. Those are key. Its my understanding that if you want to be a pilot at NASA then military flight experience is good. I went to Purdue University, but there are many great engineering schools that supply people to NASA. For EFT1 we will have live coverage on the NASA channel starting at 4:30 am eastern and will show some live video during the flight. CCtcAP Is key for NASA's plan to support ISS. We on Orion have supplied over 500 products that the Commercial companies can use and not have to spend money on themselves. We also look at ways they use reduce costs. Mark Geyer

not_your_face121 karma

I've always been a huge fan of NASA and what it's accomplished through the years, but in recent years theres been a stark decline in federal funds. What can I, as a civilian, do to help keep Americans interested in space exploration?

NASASocial140 karma

Voting helps. I often let my friends and family know about upcoming NASA events so they are informed. Thanks for your support! Mark Geyer

NASASocial89 karma

Be an ambassador for space exploration wherever you are! I think American's are interested and supportive of space. In this modern age, there are many other things that vie for our attention and it is hard to compete with the latest NFL saga or I can haz hamburger video. That said, I think we have enjoyed fairly good support even through the downtime when we aren't flying humans on U.S. rockets.

Keep the faith!- TM

luckyincards100 karma

Thanks for the AMA!

When there are changes in the President or Congress, NASA's existing programs are sometimes dramatically changed or outright cancelled. It seems to be an institutional problem that NASA programs take longer than 4 years to develop but you are subject to the political cycle. Are you concerned that the "Road to Mars" that you've laid out could be at risk come 2017? If so, what can be done to ensure that the program is not taken off track?

NASASocial99 karma

I think the best thing we can do is to execute well. This is the most relevant action we can take. As an aside, even during the early space program, those same four year cycles existed. In one of his papers, WVB references this problem. TM

MargretTatchersParty89 karma

I have a friend that is really really annoying. Is there anyway that I can get him on the rocket without him knowing and ship him off?

NASASocial105 karma

Me too. Let's talk offline :) -mjb

WilliamBott80 karma

I'd like to thank you for your incredible, tireless efforts to help every one of us experience space vicariously.

What portion of you are jealous of those that will actually get to land on Mars and live there (assuming plans go through with it)? I'm jealous.

NASASocial89 karma

I am personally satisfied being a shipbuilder, but I certainly want to hear the tales of the explorers and scientists of strange faraway lands when they return!

NASASocial75 karma

Thanks. I have a great job. I really enjoy the engineering challenges of making a vehicle that explores the solar system. I think living on Mars would also be extremely cool, but that job will be for your generation.

Adolph_Fritz62 karma

What's after mars?

NASASocial267 karma

Interstellar, of course! TM

brett6781117 karma

You're going to shoot matthew mcconaughey into a black hole?

Pls bring along IMAX cameras.

NASASocial200 karma

Awright, awright, awright! TM

NASASocial67 karma

thomasjaf50 karma

Deep space travel imply long time travel. Is Orion big enough to be shipped by itself to Mars or does she require a secondary "living room" module launched apart?

NASASocial72 karma

Going to Mars and back could take as much as 3 years. You need lots of food and other stuff and the volume to hold exercise equipment, etc. Orion is really built for about 21 days max for a 4 person crew. SO you would need a habitation module in concert with Orion as well as propulsion modules to get you to Mars. Mark Geyer

That_swedish_guy44 karma

Ever played Kerbal space program?

If so, who's your favorite kerbal?

NASASocial69 karma

I have never played that game. My experience is more COD, Fallout 3 and Far Cry. Usually I just spawn and die and its over quickly. Mark Geyer

NASASocial54 karma

I haven't either, but I hear that it's a lot of fun. Maybe once we get Orion launched! -mjb

a7xxx39 karma

What sets Orion ahead of private company crafts like SpaceX's Dragon?

NASASocial52 karma

Both are critical to NASA's plan. Orion is built to go beyond low earth orbit. We have the capability to carry enough food, water, propellant to go to the moon and beyond (about 21 days total). On the missions we are flying near the moon we could be as far as 10 days away from earth so if we had an emergency we have to have ways to protect the crew and keep them safe. We also have to have the reliability and quality of the systems to reduce the likelihood of failures. Also the heatshield needs to protect for speeds nearly 1.5 times faster than a low earth orbit entry. Mark Geyer

chunseye38 karma

Hi guys! Loving the recent announcements about the entire Mars program, got me excited like a little kid!

Two questions:

  1. About the whole "we're going to make a small asteroid orbit the moon" thing: won't the asteroid be pulled towards earth as well, making its orbit very unstable? Will it require continuous 'redirecting' by the SEP?

  2. One of the biggest issues surrounding the Mars One project, is that there's no way back for humans once you land on Mars. Do you envision any new developments in the coming 20-40 years that will be able to bring astronauts back, after they've landed on Mars?

Thanks for doing an AMA!

NASASocial70 karma

  1. The asteroid will be directed to a very stable orbit. Unless it is purposefully disturbed or directed towards Earth, nothing to fear.

  2. While I understand the thinking behind one-way trips, ultimately, NASA's goal is to bring them back.

9Flame37 karma

Assuming the Thursday flight test is a success, would we possibly see a human successfully reach Mars in this lifetime? (next 80 years or so).

Also, you guys are totally awesome :D

NASASocial60 karma

Definitely! We are developing plans to build the launch architecture to get us to Mars sometime in the 2030's. The SLS launch vehicle and Orion spacecraft are the first key building blocks. -mjb

chrisengelsma36 karma

Have any of you read the book Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson?

NASASocial22 karma

Not me, do you recommend it? -mjb

a7xxx31 karma

Would you rather fight an SLS sized Orion, or 100 Orion sized SLS's?

NASASocial29 karma

That sounds VERY hypothetical to me...

Seriously, humans are a very needy organism. We need lots of food, water, supplies, etc., and for long missions, i.e. >year(s), that's a lot of stuff. If you have lots of little rockets, then the assembly of the mission parts becomes more complex and the overall mission reliability suffers. At one point, we thought we wanted to assemble the ISS truss like a Tinker Toy, but it turned out it would take more EVA time than we had ever accomplished. The answer turned out to be to "pre-integrate" the trusses into big chunks. TM

NASASocial37 karma

As a ground guy, I'd be more worried about a Vehicle Assembly Building-sized Crawler Transporter. -mjb

brett678128 karma

Hi guys

I have a question about the Constellation program that SLS is meant to replace.

I've always been enamored with the idea of using the aeroshell of the original launch vehicle as the heatshield for martian entry. I love the video of the purposed mission you guys made a while back.

My question ultimately is whether SLS will support the launching of these style of large landers. If so, would robotic missions be sent first to seed a base, then later send the humans?

And would the base be built using inflatable habitat's or would we burry the habs in martian soil to cut down on radiation exposure?


NASASocial38 karma

SLS will definitely support large landers. It will be the most powerful rocket ever built. I'm a big fan of inflatable habitat's. You can get a lot more volume in a single launch. If you have a chance, check out Mr. Bigelow's website. It has twice the internal volume of the ISS and can be launched with a single SLS. The ISS took 25 shuttle flights to assemble. TM

WilliamBott24 karma

What's the single most rewarding part of your job? What kind of training do you have to go through to be on the front lines of such an incredible program that pioneers exploration and redefines our boundaries as a species?

NASASocial37 karma

Working at the Kennedy Space Center, nothing beats launch day. We work hard year round and a launch is a dramatic, tangible reward for that work. NASA employees are typically college graduates oftentimes with advanced STEM degrees. At NASA we get leadership training, business training, technical training and lots of diverse work assignment to prepare us for management. -mjb

NASASocial23 karma

Every day working with some of the most talented and motivated people on the planet! Our people make it worth all of the toils, frustrations, and effort - TM

NASASocial23 karma

Its a hard and complex job which makes it very interesting. I also get to work with very dedicated people who share the same passion for spaceflight. And sometimes its just very cool, like when we got to take a tour today looking at the Delta IV rocket with Orion on top. mark Geyer

forrestthewoods19 karma


NASASocial33 karma

We partner extensively with SpaceX in our exploration program. SpaceX provides Space Station resupply missions and is also working on providing a capability to transport our astronauts to/from the Station. So while they are working on Low Earth Orbit (LEO) missions, NASA is leading the effort to put humans on Mars using our SLS launch vehicle and Orion spacecraft. Both efforts are essential in our overall human spaceflight program! -mjb

Griffanzi18 karma

Hey guys, thanks for doing this AMA,

I love what NASA has been able to do and what it plans on doing. However I feel a lot of people these days may not feel that it is as important, as interest for NASA and the space program seem to be becoming smaller and smaller these days.

My question for you guys is:

What would you say to someone who isn't science savvy about the Orion mission?

How would you convince them that the Orion mission is a worthwhile and important mission?


NASASocial31 karma

Orion and SLS are the beginning of humans exploring the solar system (to the moon and beyond). Exploration changes the way we think about our world and by understanding what happened to Mars can help us understand what we should be concerned about on Earth.
Mark Geyer

Boothby17115 karma

What are NASA's plans for maintaining muscle strength (mass) for the astronauts on these long-duration missions?

Are you going to be using a medium-to-large centrifuge? Exercise equipment? Drugs?

NASASocial23 karma

We have a wealth of experience on the international Space Station using exercise to reduce bone loss and muscle mass with great success. Soon we will have crew members on ISS that will stay on orbit for a full year to get more information about the long term effects of space travel. Mark Geyer

GoBucks1311 karma

I am graduating this month magna cum laude with a degree in chemical engineering and with honors research distinction, want to throw a job my way??

Other than that, how do you feel that social media/the internet has helped renew an interest in space? I really love watching the ISS live feed in my spare time.

NASASocial22 karma

Sounds like you are qualified! We have lots of folks with chemical engineering backgrounds who help us in a variety of ways. NASA jobs are advertised via the USAJOBS website.

NASA uses social media extensively in our outreach and our twitter, facebook, and other accounts are among the most popular out there. Glad that you enjoy the ISS feed. -mjb

GoBucks137 karma

I had checked in the past but didn't see anything at least for ChemE's so I figured I would ask you guys haha. I have written a research paper on the Sabatier reaction as part of a catalysis class and my honors thesis dealt with alkaline fuel cells (used in apollo missions and the shuttle) so I really have a passion for space.

NASASocial14 karma

Keep checking. New jobs are posted all the time. While there may not be one for Chemical Engineers today, there may be tomorrow. -mjb

yankeed00dledandy11 karma

What kind of shirt are you wearing? That is obviously the most important issue relevant.

NASASocial5 karma

JC Penney button down -mjb

PM_ME_A_HORSE11 karma

Do you expect that the first person to make it to Mars (whenever that may be) will spend the rest of his/her life away from Earth?

NASASocial30 karma

I don't think so. I imagine the first visitors will stay for a short time and return (to lots of ticker tape parades!). I think that eventually though, people will go to stay and some will even be born there. -mjb

blondedis10 karma

After the first human lands on Mars, what's next? Will it be another planet deeper in our solar system or is that not possible besides Mars?

NASASocial14 karma

We are really focused on Mars right now and it will be a long campaign. I'm glad that you are already thinking further down the road, you will have to help us pick the next destination! -mjb

qwerty12qwerty10 karma

I am a 20 yo sophomore studying Computer Science. What should I do in my studies and internships so that I have a chance of applying for a software engineering job with you guys?

NASASocial20 karma

I got my Computer Science degree from Indiana University in 1987. I was also a co-op student with NASA so I highly recommend an internship or co-op term. NASA and our contractors are always looking for highly qualified software engineers -- the NASA jobs are advertised at USAJOBS. -mjb

jeaesar9 karma

Can you send me a autograph?

NASASocial23 karma

Autograph - TM

NASASocial15 karma

Michael J. Bolger

RandomMike1998 karma

What positions can someone that studied mathematics exclusively fulfil at NASA?

NASASocial15 karma

Many of our efforts involve complex mathematical analysis. Most of the rocket is defined by mathematical computer models. Some experience in programming is also a plus. The "M" in STEM is for math! TM

everything_theworst7 karma

Hi there! As someone who has been following SLS and Orion pretty closely for several years, I've heard a lot about these two individual systems and the eventual goal of Mars but no real specifics. Are there any actual Mars mission architectures that have been proposed IN Nasa that are currently favored? Is there a list of options for future mission architectures? Where do Orion and SLS fit in? Thanks!

NASASocial11 karma

We are currently studying Mars mission architectures pretty extensively. I don't remember the exact date, but I think you will see something in 2015 (second half). SLS and Orion are the initial building blocks on the Mars journey. -mjb

TeamOldGods7 karma

What is the most impressive aspect of the Orion, SLS, and the ground systems? Are there any small and seemingly insignificant parts that are really neat-o, in your opinion?

NASASocial11 karma

I think that the sheer size and scale of the rocket and spacecraft are unappreciated. This is going to be the most powerful rocket in history and the assets that we are developing on the ground to support it are enormous. For instance, the Vehicle Assembly Building, where we stack and test the SLS and Orion, is big enough to hold 4 Statues of Liberty! -mjb


With funding so tight, what is one thing you would say to congress to convince them otherwise?

NASASocial13 karma

If the U.S. doesn't lead in space, who will? -mjb

Send_Yuengling6 karma

What have been the biggest challenges for each of your programs so far?

NASASocial13 karma

For Orion we have two kinds of challenges. The changes in policy which effect some of our requirements and budget is hard to navigate sometimes. On the technical side getting all the capabilities we need in Orion and still hit our mass targets.
Mark Geyer

NASASocial12 karma

At Kennedy the biggest challenge is developing all new ground systems and facilities for the first time since the Shuttle program in the 1980s. It's a lot of work and we want to make sure that the new "21st Century Launch Complex" will endure for decades to come. -mjb

c0mv4d3r5 karma

What do you/ you all think that we will be able to achieve in the next ten years?

NASASocial5 karma

We're going to safely launch the biggest rocket in the history of the world with American astronauts on Orion. -mjb

the_turpinator5 karma


What would you say are the MOST employable/in-demand jobs relating to the space industry as of now?

Which areas of study would you recommend to students interested in pursuing a career in the space industry?

Thank you guys so much for doing this AMA!

NASASocial8 karma

All of the STEM degrees are employable in the space industry. I'd recommend engineering if you are interested in working at the Kennedy Space Center. -mjb

Moon_Man_Jay5 karma

First of all, thank you so much for your continued dedication to space travel and exploration. And thanks for doing the AMA, too!

Here's my question: What's the plan for dealing with a lower gravitational pull on the human body for such an extended amount of time? I've seen reports that say even spending 6 months in the ISS can be very detrimental to an astronaut's health.

NASASocial12 karma

In general, living in microgravity is hard on the body, but one key is "countermeasures". Things like special exercise machines and regimens, and "penguin suits" which help keep blood flow regulated are specific countermeasures.

Ultimately, creating artificial gravity with a spinning station would be a great solution. - TM

redcolts854 karma

A journey to Mars would surely be the longest (in terms of both distance and time) manned space expedition in human history. How long do you estimate the outbound and return trips will take?

NASASocial9 karma

Roundtrip to Mars will take longer than a year. It's a long way! -mjb

a7xxx4 karma

What is your favorite food?

NASASocial9 karma

1 Pizza; #2 An Ice Cream Sandwich


abmiram4 karma

Do you guys watch much Sci-Fi?

NASASocial18 karma

Yes. I really liked Interstellar. Mark Geyer

maatallah223 karma

Thanks for doing the AMA!

The future NASA programs are obviously multi-year projects that will go past the Obama administration. Is anyone worried these programs will be cancelled by future budgets/administrations or are things pretty much set in stone?

NASASocial7 karma

NASA's programs are incredibly challenging and oftentimes extend beyond a single administration. Typically we enjoy support across political lines though so we know that if we create compelling missions, and deliver on our commitments, we stand a good chance of finishing what we start. A neat thing about SLS and Orion is that we are providing an incredibly versatile launch vehicle and spacecraft that will be able to accomplish many different kinds of missions (i.e. if it gives us flexibility to support changing mission requirements). -mjb

Bed_Invader3 karma

What are will the European and Russian involvement in the Mars program be? Will there be astronauts from these countries?

NASASocial6 karma

The European Space Agency is designing the Orion Service Module. We look forward to broad international participation in our Mars program. -mjb

mcallahan943 karma


I am a 20 year old junior in college, and I hope to work for NASA one day. I am interested in astrophysics and cosmology, but the college I attend does not offer those as major choices. I have been a biology major up until now, and I am considering a switch to physics, but I worry that I'm too far into my college career to change what I want to do. (My dad is a doctor, so I always assumed I would be one, too, but I recently realized that the medical field is not for me.) Do you have any advice for me and students like me?

Thank you!

NASASocial7 karma

If your college offers co-op opportunities or internships, I recommend that you see if you can find one with NASA or one of our contractors. We do hire biologists, although I suspect that there are more physicists across the agency. Internships are a great way for you to see if you like the work and we get cheap labor :) -mjb

akman162 karma

Why did you name Orion after a theoretical nuclear rocket?

nblackhand3 karma

I am not OP, but:

It's named after the constellation, of course, c'mon, NASA's like 50% excited kids with telescopes. :P

NASASocial1 karma

Exactly. Mark Geyer

papagikos2 karma

Favorite "Space" related movie?

NASASocial3 karma

  1. 2001 A Space Odyssey
  2. Star Wars (pick one)
  3. Dune
  4. Star Trek (pick one)
  5. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

NASASocial2 karma

Silent Running (Bruce Dern). Mark Geyer

NASASocial2 karma

Silent Running (Bruce Dern). Mark Geyer

MrEarthly1 karma

KSP fan and amateur Astronomy fan here. Also, as someone with a bachelor's in Biology and working in the research field, is it too late for me to get a degree in astronomy? I don't have unlimited money to throw at a college but would love to contribute to human space exploration and sciences.

NASASocial2 karma

It's never too late to work on a degree. If you have limited money, you might consider Coursera? You can study just about anything now free on the internet! - TM

Vermillon6661 karma

So do you have a need for any future Game Designers to go to mars by any chance ? Currently in my 2nd year BSC degree in game design and my friends tell me im a nice guy so if you think i have what it takes let me know ;). In all honesty though im blown away by all of this i can not imagine what the astronauts taking there first steps on mars will feel like, Do you know yet how you will psychologically test them to make sure they dont freak out 3 months into the trip to mars ?

NASASocial6 karma

I think some of the most innovative and beautiful design is coming out of the gaming world today. That said, in the "real world", it still has to get built and work and the laws of physics come into play. It takes both. Engineering and Artistic Design. I recently heard someone refer to STEAM as the new STEM, with the A being for "Art". I wholeheartedly agree we need that side of it. If you are interested, there is a great book called "Design Beauty" by Gelertner that addresses this topic. - TM