A group of local students got a chance to chat with a pair of special friends floating 250 miles above their heads on Tuesday.
In an online event organized by U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, students from Chester and Berks counties were able to have their questions answered by two astronauts on the International Space Station.
The students were eager to know what astronauts eat in space, whether they get homesick, how many years they need to train for space travel, what kind of research they are performing and much more.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet seemed delighted to provide answers, happily explaining all the details about living in space.
Houlahan said she organized the event with the astronauts Tuesday because she has always been fascinated with the space program.
“When I was a little girl my role model was a woman named Sally Ride, the first American woman to go to space,” the congresswoman shared. “It’s so important to have people who inspire us and who we can look up to — literally.”
Houlahan said nearly 300 students from 20 schools submitted questions for the astronauts. Here are a few that were fielded by the astronauts.
What is the hardest thing about living in space?
— Violet from Immaculate Conception Academy in Union Township
Pesquet said life on the space station is actually pretty similar to life on Earth.
He said the technological advances that have been made to the station over the past several decades provides the crew with many of the comforts of home.
“I think the most difficult thing today is not the physical hardship but being away from your loved ones for such an extended period of time,” he said. “We spend six months at a time without being able to see our friends and families.
“But, then again, it’s pretty cool to live in space.”
What does a typical day look like in space?
— Clarissa from Octorara Elementary School in Atglen
McArthur said one of the coolest aspects of being an astronaut is that there is no such thing as a typical day.
“Every day you’re doing something different,” she said. “You could be doing almost anything. Some days you might be fixing the toilet and doing some biology experiments and the other days you might be finding some lost hardware or preparing a spacesuit for space walk.”
Why is it important to do research in space?
— Stephen from Barkley Elementary School in Phoenixville
Pesquet said it is important to do research in space because there are things that scientists can observe in space that they cannot observe on the ground.
“There are some phenomena that are masked by gravity on the planet and when you come here to the space station you are free from these affects,” he said, noting that scientists have studied things like how metals form alloys.
What are some technologies that are currently in their infancy stage that you think will play a role in future space exploration?
— Michael from Delaware County Community College in Media
McArthur said researchers have been working on several experiments that have the potential to impact future space exploration as well as provide benefits for those back on Earth.
“One of the things we have working on a lot lately is water reclamation,” she said. “While the technology is not in its infancy, we are making sure that these systems work, are efficient and are easy to establish.”
How does the change in gravity affect your health?
— Josette from Immaculate Conception Academy in Union Township
Pesquet said the health of astronauts in space are affected in many different ways, explaining that he is exposed to more radiation from the sun, that there is a fluid shift inside his body and he will experience muscle and bone loss.
“We’re not made to live in space,” he said. “But the good thing is, thanks to the space station, we have been studying this for a long time now and have a good understanding of what it takes to have humans live safely in space for an extended period of time.”
What made you decide to become an astronaut?
— Kiran from the Montgomery School in Chester Springs
McArthur said she initially really liked the possibility of being a part of a mission that has this overwhelming goal of exploring the universe.
“And as a I learned more about being an astronaut I realized that you don’t have to be good at one thing, you have to figure out how to do a bunch of different things and the challenges can be different every single day,” she said. “That was appealing because I thought it would be interesting to learn so many different things and never know what was going to happen next.”
To watch the complete broadcast, visit facebook.com/RepChrissyHoulahan.
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