NASA astronaut Raja Chari fielded space exploration questions from Wheat Ridge High School students during a NASA-TV live broadcast from the International Space Station the morning of Feb. 18.
During an assembly in the school’s auditorium that morning, students and guests watched the broadcast after a brief FAQ presentation and remarks by Congressman Ed Perlmutter, former NASA astronaut Lee Archambault and Jeffco Schools Deputy Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza. Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and REM’s “Man on the Moon” could be heard on the sound system between presentations.
Pre-recorded questions were submitted by students in WRHS science teacher Steve Schultz’ Space Exploration unit, part of the school’s astronomy courses. In addition, students in the auditorium posed spontaneous questions to the guest speakers prior to the broadcast.
So, what pressing questions do local high schoolers have about space?
They wanted to know how living in space affects physical and mental health, including difficulties in adjusting to weightlessness, and gravity upon return to Earth.
Asked about the best and worst food on the space station, Chari raved about a “taco night” featuring space-grown Hatch green chilis, but admitted people’s sense of taste is impaired, requiring more condiments for flavor. Mealtimes are important social gatherings, as astronauts are busy working all day.
“More windows!” was his answer to what he’d like to change about the station. He was asked about and explained how oxygen and water were provided – a combination of recycling, generators and extra supplies.
“What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen from the space station?” Antarctica and the constant sight of the Aurora Borealis, said Chari.
No one snores in space, he said, and planets and stars don’t twinkle, as there’s no atmosphere.
Chari wasn’t asked about aliens, but Perlmutter and Archambault were.
“Do you believe in aliens?” and “How can we make peace with aliens?” were met with smiles and carefully chosen words, as well as laughter from the students.