Astronaut Sandy Magnus is a flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 18 on the International Space Station. She's been sending down journals during her mission and taking time to answer questions from the public. This page is dedicated to questions from school children, including students in her hometown area.
> View Sandy Magnus' bio
> Read Magnus' journals
> Read more about Expedition 18
> Read other questions and answers
Mary Kay McGinnis
St. Mary – St Augustine Catholic School
What was it like to have Thanksgiving in space?
Well, it was not as nice as having it at home with friends and family! I usually cook every year for a large number of people and I missed doing that this year. But, I did have a good window view and we had fun with the Shuttle crew eating NASA Thanksgiving food and just relaxing after working for so hard for the last 12 days or so. It was kind of sad, though, because shortly after we finished our meal, we had to close the hatches and say good-bye.
What did you eat?
We had smoked turkey, cornbread stuffing, green beans, candied yams and for dessert, cranberry-apple cobbler (which was very good!).
How is the new water system going?
It seems to be running fairly smoothly now that we have worked the kinks out of it. When you build such complicated hardware for such a challenging environment you have to expect a few surprises. That, after all, is what we are about up here. We are doing things that no one has ever done before and inventing new technologies and ways of doing things. When you are on the leading edge of designing and building equipment having a few kinks to work out is not unusual. The important thing is that we are constantly learning!
How does it taste?
Well, we are not allowed to drink it yet because they want to let the system run for a while, have us collect samples over the three months I am here, and then bring them to the ground on the Shuttle that I return on and test them in the laboratory to make sure that they are good. It is kind of a quality control check. After that, then crews on ISS will be given a "go" to drink it, but that will be after I have returned home.
Also, if you have a birthday on the station, do you get cake? When is your birthday?
Well, my birthday is in October so I had it right before I launched, but if you have a birthday on ISS you may get a small cupcake or something if people on the ground plan ahead (or some other special item) but it would be hard to launch a cake and have it arrive in reasonably good shape. Also cakes produce crumbs and any kind of food that produces crumbs is bad (remember without gravity helping deposit all of the crumbs on the floor, they just float around and can get in your eyes and all over the place!).
Mascoutah Middle School
When you were at liftoff going up into the sky, did your ears pop like they do on a plane? If so, was it worse than on a plane?
Actually the Shuttle is kept at sea level pressure so my ears did not really feel much different. It was not worse than on an airplane. Your ears pop on airplanes because they actually depressurize the cabin to something that is equivalent to 10,000 feet. So you are above sea level when you are flying on a plane.
How will you combat boredom once the newness has worn off of being up there?
Well, I cannot imagine ever being bored up here. I can always spend time looking out the window. I have e-mail correspondence with friends. I can make phone calls when I have the correct satellite hook up. I have lots of interesting ideas on what to film so I do not think I will be bored. I am actually wondering if I will have enough time to do everything that I want to do.
What if you get homesick? What will you do?
Well, I think you are going to get homesick a bit. I know I miss my family and it will be difficult to not be with them on Christmas, for example. But I knew going into the mission that this was going to happen and I have ways to communicate with family and friends and you just deal with it! I think it is a valid concern, though, and it is something you need to think about ahead of time. It is just like taking a long trip back there on Earth!
Do Michael and Yury like the different foods that you make for them when you do your food experiments? What do they like the best?
Well, they tell me they like them, but I know that they are not just being polite since they eat it all up! I think the favorite so far was the Mexican scramble that I made followed by the stuffing and then the Russian crab salad. I am going to try to construct something Italian this weekend. Wish me luck!
What types of jobs did you have to learn before you went into space? This is what we thought up in class. What else can you add?
- We know you had to learn to be a dentist because if anything happens to your teeth, you might have to fix it.
- You have to be a doctor/nurse to take blood and do different health experiments.
- You have to be a cook since you can't go to a fast food restaurant to get your food; you have to fix it yourself.
- You have to be a plumber if the toilet breaks.
- You are also an electrician to work on all the lights and electrical stuff in the ISS.
- You have to be a pilot to move the Soyuz and the robot arm.
- You have to know how to do your own laundry since there is no washing machine on board.
- You have to be a translator to understand what people on the ground are talking about from other countries.
- You have to be a mechanic to be able to put things together in space and follow the directions.
- You have to learn geography to learn what countries and states you are flying over.
- You have to learn how to use a camera to take pictures of yourself floating in space and of the Earth.
- You have to be an organizer to be able to organize and know where all the stuff in the ISS is located.
- And...you have to be a kid again, to have fun floating in space.
WOW!!!! You guys did great. I think you covered everything. The only thing that I do not do is laundry since we wear our clothes for a long time and then just throw them away (or bring them home). You are right, we do not have a washing machine on board. I do, sometimes, have to wash out a bit of food that floated into my shirt or pants, so I guess in a small way I do a bit of laundry! I also have to be a scientist when I do the experiments that we have on board. That is quite a list, isn't it? That is why I am always mentioning that I am in school just like you! I have lots of different things to learn and all of it is new, just like what you are doing. I think it is very fun to learn all of this new stuff and I hope that you are enjoying learning all of the new stuff that Ms. May is teaching you. You guys really did great with this list!!!!!!
What do you do if you lose a tooth in space? Does the tooth fairy come? If so, how would she leave something under your pillow?
Well, I would hope that if you lost a tooth in space that the tooth fairy could come get it, but you would not be able to leave it under your pillow for several different reasons. The first reason is that we do not use pillows in space. Remember that a pillow is for cushioning your head as you lay down on the bed because gravity is holding your body to the bed. Here without gravity we do not sleep laying down, but upright, and we do not have pillows--we just float in our sleeping bags. Also if you did have a pillow and put your tooth under it, it would float away!
If you get a cavity or tooth ache in space, what would happen? Would Michael or Yury have to fill the cavity?
This is another good question because you are exactly right in that we cannot go to the dentist. We actually get some very basic dentistry training, more so in order to deal with emergencies than anything. So if you had a really bad toothache, you would probably have to take something for the pain and wait until you return to Earth to get it taken care of.