Beware of Gators on the Way to Mars: NASA Starts Our Journey to the Red Planet - Part 1

December 4, 2014

This week, I find myself near Orlando, Florida - deep into the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and the heart of NASA. It’s a dream come true, and I’m very grateful to be in the midst of some of the most intelligent, diverse group of people in the world.  

Heavily guarded by the alligator swamps stands the DIV rocket and launch pad
Hand-picked from a group of over 4,500 applicants, NASA invited 150 fellow social media and space enthusiasts and I to check out the first step of whats to be an incredible journey outside of Earth's lower orbit and towards new, potentially habitable lands... far, far away. 

Private buses transported us out towards the action site.

Galaxy-inspired outfit with JCrew Sparkle Side-Slit pullover and dark blue skinny jeans
Behind me here is the rocket and launch pad - the DIV rocket is the most powerful in existence. It's trajectory and force will send a ship with up to 4 astronauts tens to millions of miles away. Getting to Mars will be a 3-4 year journey, and once there the astronauts must discover a way to survive, because the chances of their returning right away is very slim.

We were so lucky to sit in the press room and join the live televised broadcast, where NASA administration and top chief technologists debriefed us and answered questions. A digital launch countdown was displayed in bold red at the top of the wall.

Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator
"Space exploration demands a sense of urgency".

Panel includes NASA Administration & top Technologists and Scientists
If we have ever met, you'd know that I am bursting with curiosity, and had to jump up to ask about the new wearable technology that will be used on the mission.

Yes, I am sporting a new wearable from the United Launch Alliance on my wrist - thanks guys!
The scientists all seemed excited to talk about everything from data collection technology to materials science. A quick teaser about a few things they have in the works:

  • EKG electrode vests for instant health monitoring - astronauts just slip them on
  • Small dosimeters for monitoring levels of radiation in their systems
  • New shoes (!) with built-in accelerometers
  • Silver fibers sewn into clothing to prevent sweat absorption and bacteria growth

This last point is creating leaps and bounds in the sustainable fashion arena. Scientists are working diligently to create clothing that can potentially last the entire space journey without needing a wash or change. Because of the limited area within a ship, oxygen takes precedence over multiple outfits.

David Miller NASA Chief Technologist @NASATechnology
"Our mission: Get there, land there, live there. The journey starts now."
Plans revealed!

The test launch date was set for today, but after some technical setbacks will try again tomorrow. The tentative date set to send humans farther than they've ever gone before is 2016, 2020 at the latest. One of the main reasons they can't go sooner has to do with the space suit technology.

Material scientists are working on spacesuits, customizable and using brand new materials that offer the protection and life-sustaining needs required on a foreign planet. As I look upon what Neil Armstrong wore only 45 years ago, (below) I can't help but feel a sense of pride in my country and for the people who work so hard to help us evolve, grow, and discover.

Armstrong's Original Suit

His boots still have remnants of moon dust on them

I eagerly await what will happen next, and will forever embrace this moment in time - man's first step into deep space. See you at the launch tomorrow.

-XO Julia

Thanks for reading! Since we couldn't bring our own photographers, a big thanks to Austin Braun ‏@Braun23 for taking some great pics! These opinions are all my own. Follow live updates on my Instagram and Twitter.


  1. Improve my Readability!!!
    Pretty neat though. Can NASA really compete with Elon Musk?

    1. Haha you got it Adam, click on the mission image again. Great question! I'll field to NASA to see if they have any comments.

    2. Ok we have an answer from NASA in regards to the Elon Musk inquiry. See below:
      NASA’s not competing with SpaceX and other commercial partners. We’re helping to enable them and need them to success, both in delivering cargo to the space station but also crews, for which we are procuring services. NASA’s goal is to leave low-Earth orbit and journey deeper into space than ever before.

      Let us know if you have any additional questions.

  2. You are so pretty :)

  3. Thanks for a great post. I was wondering if you could elaborate more on the dosimetric monitoring NASA plans to implement in its missions? Did they just talk about dosimeters for their systems or did they plan on personal dosimeters for the astronauts, and if so how they plan on addressing the highly varied (energy and particle type) radiation field found past the van allen belt?

    1. Great question Adam! Yes, the crew will have personal dosimeters. Improvements to personal dosimeters are being investigated for future missions. The Orion vehicle will be outfitted with both passive and active dosimeters. The technology packaged in the active dosimeter which we flew on EFT-1 will be packaged for flight on Orion’s future missions. The active dosimeter is capable of monitoring and detecting the varied radiation field outside the Van Allen belts. Vehicle materials and layout assist in mitigating the radiation encountered. Short stays outside the Van Allen belt are manageable but longer duration radiation exposure will require increased mitigation. A public challenge is currently underway seeking solutions to radiation exposure encountered on long duration deep space missions. This is straight from the scientists and leaders at NASA so hope it helps, let me know!


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