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Kids Interview Endeavour Astronauts!

May 23rd, 2011

photo credit: NASA

May 23, 2011 — Most kids wouldn’t want to be at school on a Sunday night, but students at the Mesa Verde Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, were excited to be back at school late last night for a wonderful opportunity to learn about space … from two astronauts currently there!  Commander Mark Kelly and Specialist Mike Fincke are in space with Endeavour.

This school was chosen for very special reasons, but the great questions they asked are interesting for everyone.  You can watch a portion of the interview below. It’s paraphrased for you in its entirety below that:


Student: How long does it take to get into space after blast off?

Endeavour: We go from zero to 17,500 miles an hour in 8 min 20 seconds. When those main engines start it’s like being on a runaway train. We get into orbit quite quickly. And we’re hundreds of miles up into space going really, really fast.

Student: What is the most interesting or most exciting thing you’ve ever seen in space?

Endeavour: Just yesterday I was outside the space station. I could see the stars and moon.  But it’s the planet Earth; we can see rivers, continents, cities and even roads, it’s really amazing.

Student: Do you need any kind of military training to go up into space?

Endeavour: I’m in the U.S. Navy and Mike is in the U.S. Airforce, but the rest of our crew is about half.  So, absolutely not.  You do not need to be in the military to be an astronaut.  But in Mike’s and my case it worked out well for us.

Student: Why do you have to wear a whole space suit and not just a helmet?

Endeavour: It turns out there’s no air in space and that’s why you need a helmet and air to breathe. But we also need it to put pressure on our bodies.  If we go out in space without it, we blow up like a balloon.

Student: Who decides the destination of the space shuttle in space and where has it all been?

Endeavour: It’s designed to bring satellites up and down into Earth’s orbit.  The destinations have included the International Space Station and the Hubble Telescope.

Student: How do you stay in one place in the space station without floating away?

Endeavour: That’s actually really tricky if you’re in space.  We have some special techniques. We learn to touch things with our toes and hands to stay in place. We have handrails but usually use them for our feet.  Right now, I’m standing on two stirrups on the ground to make it look like I’m standing up.  If I let go, I float up.

Student: How fast does the space shuttle go?

Endeavour: We are going 17,500 miles around the planet. We see a sunrise of a sunset every 45 minutes. And even though you’re traveling that fast, there’s no wind in space. So if you go outside during a space walk like Mike did yesterday, it’s not like sticking your arm out the window of a car.

Student: What is the longest amount of time you’ve been up in space?

Endeavour: I’ve had the chance to go on International Space Station twice. I’ve been in space for about a year.  This time, I’ve been up now for about a week.  And I’ll tell you, it’s been a lot of fun!

Student: Does the food taste good in space?

Endeavour: We’ve got some M&Ms right here and those taste pretty good. The rest of it … not so good.

Student: How do you brush your teeth in space?

Endeavour: Brushing teeth in space is one of the few things we do the same as we do back home.  We don’t have running water but we spit into a napkin or kleenex and then throw that away.  Brusing teeth is important for you and for astronauts.

Student: What inspired you to become an astronaut?

Endeavour: For the last four months I’ve come to admire you classmate Christina Green.  I was around Christina’s age when Apollo was going to the moon. And I knew if I worked really hard in school it could happen for me, and I did work hard and it did work out.  It was those early Apollo astronauts that inspired me.

Student: Do you see old things floating around in space like space junk?

Endeavour: We are in a really low orbit and hundreds of miles above us there are things going even faster than us. But they’re so small compared to the rest of the Universe and the planet that it’s really hard to see them.  We have people on the ground who can track most things for us, just in case, so we feel pretty safe.

Student: What happens to you if you become sick or injured while you’re in space?

Endeavour: We have a medical kit on board and one on the space station and a couple of my crew members are trained in some pretty advanced medical procedures.  We don’t have a doctor on board this mission.  We can talk to doctors on the ground pretty immediately if we need to, so we’re in pretty good shape.

Student: What does it feel like in your seat during blast off and landing compared to an airplane?

Endeavour: One of the main differences is you’re sitting in a space suit and you’re lying on your back for launch and the rockets light and you push back in your seat and you have a lot of things to do while you’re sitting on the rocket.  The main difference is it’s really super exciting to know you’re heading for space.

Student: Who decides who gets to go into space?

Endeavour: We have a boss named Peggy and she pretty much decides.

Student: Have you ever seen anything strange in space?

Endeavour: I’ve been in space over a year and I’ve looked out the window a lot and I haven’t seen anything strange.  I don’t think anyone up here has seen an alien or a UFO, but we’re keeping our eyes open.

Student: What do you hope to learn on this mission?

Endeavour: A few days ago we installed a $2 billion cosmic ray collector. It started collecting data on 50 million particles and it’s hoping to learn the make up of the Universe. We’re hoping to learn it after a number of years.

Student: Can you tell which country or continent has the most air pollution in space?

Endeavour: The space program has been really helpful for people to help them understand what’s going on with their own planet, including rivers, oceans and land. And sometimes you can see wildfires and things like that.  When you know about something then you can help do things to make the world better.

Student: How can I be an astronaut?

Endeavour: The best thing you can do is to learn and pay attention in school. It is really worth your time to work really hard and listen to your teachers.

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