NASA and Students Celebrate Fifty Years of Human Space Flight
Today, space exploration still inspires wonder in a new generation -- sparking passions and pursuits of the unknown. To show their support for spaceflight, more than 6,500 students recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first human journey into space at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Students attended the April 8 event from all over the San Francisco/ San Jose Bay Area. They represented 62 schools, the majority Title I schools, and ranged from elementary to high school. Numerous hands-on learning activities were available, including interactive exhibits, workshops and presentations by leading scientists, engineers and technology experts. Games included space trivia and a scavenger hunt.
Additional activities included building and launching rockets, controlling a Mars rover replica, learning how an infrared camera works and making music in an immersive environment.
Students were given tours of real aircraft, including a high-performance, supersonic F-104 Starfighter; a medium-lift, utility H-60 Black Hawk helicopter; and a C-130 Hercules four-engine turboprop from the Calif. Air National Guard.
Guest speakers included NASA Education’s Deputy Administrator Jim Stofan and former astronaut Daniel Barry, who talked about his experience on the STS-105 Space Shuttle Discovery that flew to the International Space Station (ISS) in Aug. 2001.
“It’s a kick in the pants,” Barry told a student audience. “We were four months late bringing supplies and equipment to the station. So they were really glad to see us.”
Once an astronaut is aboard the ISS, it’s all about teamwork. They work with other crew members and people on the ground. As part of the daily routine, they keep in shape by running on a treadmill, and do some of the most mundane things, like putting up mufflers to minimize noise, or fixing a squeaky door, he explained.
When it is time for a spacewalk, it takes about a day to get everything together. The check list has about 200 items. The food up there is pretty good, too. The astronauts put together a menu before they leave. “When you’re eating in space, you fill up quickly. I lost 8 lbs. my first flight. You learn how to live in space,” he said.
Students were given the opportunity to ask questions after presentations. For Barry, questions included:
“How hard is it to move around in space?”
“It’s like having super powers,” said Barry.
“What does it sound like when taking off?”
“It’s more vibration than sound,” the former astronaut explained.
“Where do you sleep in space?”
“Some people sleep on the ceiling,” he said, pointing upward.
It was a fun-filled day for most students. They were treated to ice cream and given free souvenirs of what may be one of the most memorable days of their lives.
Ruth Dasso Marlaire
Ames Research Center