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Ask the Astronaut: Jim Kelly (Part 1)
10.23.06
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Hi, I'm NASA Astronaut Jim Kelly.
As a NASA astronaut, I've had many jobs.
But on my two missions to the International Space Station, I was a Space Shuttle pilot!

Before becoming a space shuttle pilot, I had to work very hard in school and I had to practice a lot! Being an astronaut is an exciting job and I'd like to help you learn more about it, so I'm ready to answer some of your questions.

Hi. My name is Quinn. I'm from Virginia.

I'd like to know how hard is it to land on Mars?

Well, Quinn, that's a fantastic question. The way I like to think about Mars is kind of a mixture of the moon and Earth. It's got an atmosphere that's very, very thin. So we use a variety of different ways to get down to the surface and usually, we'll combine a few techniques, one of them being aerobraking, which is where you use the thin atmosphere to kind of slow yourself down. You can use some wings, but in the end we use rockets just like we do on the moon.

Hi. My name is Chris, I'm from Florida. I wanted to know how does it feel to be in Space?

Hey, Chris. Great question. It feels fantastic to be in space. the way you feel for two weeks in weightlessness is about the same as one or two things. The first one is if you've ever gone off a 10-meter platform. You're there above the pool; I know it's scary the first time you do it.

Go up to that 10-meter platform and dive down into the water. About halfway down, where you feel completely free, like you could do flips and rolls and spins or anything like that, and you feel completely free to do all that and kind of, your stomach is kind of up in your chest. That's the feeling you have for two weeks.

The other way to do it here on Earth, I think, is to be on a trampoline and when you get up to the top of your jump in the trampoline, right there at the top, the way you feel right there, once again like you could do anything and you're completely free, that's exactly how it feels to be in space.

Hi. My name is Logan, how does it feel to be an astronaut ?

Logan, that's a great question. You know, being an astronaut takes a very, very long time. And probably the best way to describe being an astronaut, the way it feels, is a sense of accomplishment. It's something for me, I wanted to be an astronaut from the time I was about five years old. And it takes a lot of training, a lot of school, a lot of training once you become an astronaut, before you go fly in space.

And I've flown in space twice as an astronaut, and to me it's a sense of accomplishment that you've spent your life chasing a dream that was worthwhile and were able to make it. So, the fact that anyone can go out there in space and live the dream of being able to float around in weightlessness and visit other, visit the moon and hopefully go on to visit other planets later on, is just an incredible feeling.

Hi. My name is Aaron and I'm from North Carolina. What does astronaut food taste like?

Hey, Aaron. That's a question I had when I first came to the program. You know, what's the food going to taste like? What we have on board is we can take about any kind of food that you can have down here on Earth, you can take into space. Interestingly enough, we don't cook anything up there. Everything we have is precooked and what we'll do is we'll heat it up. We can add water to things, either hot water or cold water. We can stir them up.

The things that work best on orbit are things like casseroles, things that stick together, because what you're mostly worried about is parts floating away.

The one thing we don't have on orbit right now, which I really wish we did, is pizza. I miss that a lot when I'm out there on orbit.

Hi. My name's Quinn and I'm from Oregon and I'd like to know how do they get electricity to the International Space Station?

Quinn, that's a great question. Right now, we are powering the International Space Station using solar energy.

The way that we do that is we've got solar arrays that are going to be on the end of the two truss segments, going left and right on either side of the laboratory module on the International Space Station. When you're in the sun, which is more than half of the orbit as you're going around the Earth, you, we will actually draw that sunlight in and we focus all the energy from that sunlight into a set of batteries.

Those batteries get charged up and then, onboard the station, it feels like you have the exact same power whether you're in sunlight or out of it, and we do that by taking, harvesting the sunlight and putting it into our batteries and storing that power.

Hey, my name is Colton, I'm from from Idaho, and what’s it like in the shuttle during liftoff?

One of my favorite questions, you know: What does it feel on the shuttle during liftoff? That's just an incredible feeling.

The way this works is we've got three space shuttle main engines in the back and then we have these two big solid rocket boosters, which are the white things on the side of the external tank. So we light up the three main engines, get those going.

As soon as those go, as you're laying in your back in your chair, you actually move towards your feet, you rock towards your feet, and about the time you come back to straight up, point straight up again, the solid rocket boosters hit and boom, you get this big bang. And then all of a sudden, you're lifting off the launch pad.

The first two minutes the solid rocket boosters burn, there's a whole lot of shake, rattle and roll. And you're doing this roll to heads down for communications purposes.

At about the two minute point, you can see outside the, the shuttle windows, there's these explosions that happen and they're at the forward end of the solid rocket boosters and then at the aft end of the solid rocket boosters. There's these explosive charges, and the two solid rocket boosters actually come off the rocket completely and they tumble down into the Atlantic Ocean.

We recover them. Once you're on just the main engines though, it gets really, really smooth. And so from then on, for about another six and a half minutes to eight and a half minutes later from the beginning, from launch, those engines will run.

And then, just like magic, boom. The main engines cut off, and then immediately we're in zero-G. It's not violent. It's very, very calm. For most of the time on our shuttle missions, you're in zero G for about two weeks.

Thanks kids, those were great questions. Remember if you study hard and practice a lot, you can reach your goals too. I'm astronaut Jim Kelly. I'll see you next time.

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