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The Answers! Part Three

July 19th, 2011

You ask!

The Answers!

July 20, 2011 — Thanks for all of your great questions!! NASA’s Leland Melvin has taken 20 of HTE readers’ questions … and here are the answers! Thanks to everyone who submitted! We will post 5 more of the questions with answers here, and tomorrow we will post the final 5 questions when Atlantis touches down.

11. How long does it take to go around the Earth?

Jamie, no age or location given

In the space shuttle or space station, it takes only 90 minutes to do one complete orbit of planet Earth.  That means the astronauts get to see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

12. How do astronauts poop in space?

Grant, age 6, California

Well it’s pretty much the same as right here on Earth.  Both the space shuttle and the space station have toilets.  Because people – and things – float in space, we use foot restraints to keep from floating, and the toilet is equipped with a special vacuum system that draws waste away from the body and keeps it safely contained.  It’s just one of many things astronauts must adapt to in order to fly in space.  Did you know that in space we can’t spit our toothpaste into the sink either?  Same floating problem, so we have to use a washcloth and throw it away.

STS 135 Liftoff!

photo credit: NASA

13. Hi, I wanted to know if astronauts can fool around in space, like count how many back flips they can do, or will they get in trouble with their bosses back on Earth?

Eoin, age 8, New York

As long as we get all of our assigned work done, the bosses don’t mind if we have a little fun in space.  Things like doing back flips, sending our food floating through the air – stuff like that is pretty entertaining and fun!

14. What does it sound like in space? And can you see the houses on Earth with binoculars (or anything else) from the ship?

Nuala, age 6, New York

Since space is a vacuum, sound waves wouldn’t travel, so I think it is pretty silent.  Astronauts cannot go outside spacecraft without being fully protected, so no human ears have ever been exposed to space.  Typically, we can’t see houses, but we can see geographical things like rivers and mountains.  With a strong enough lens, we might be able to see something as small as a house.  I was able to see the pyramids in Egypt when I was in space. And we see big cities at night, because so many people have their lights on then.

15. How come they say “lift-off” instead of “blast-off”?

David, no age given, Canada

I asked a few people and there doesn’t seem to be a solid answer to your question. One reason might be that the word “blast” has a negative connotation.  Good question!

leland melvin

Follow @Astro_Flow on Twitter!

Thanks for sending such great questions, kids! I hope you will study science and math, listen to your parents and teachers, and live a healthy and fit lifestyle. Doing these things will allow you to reach higher, to excel and to become the next generation of explorers!

Reach for the Stars,


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