A recent guest visitor to Granby Elementary School led students on an exciting mission that was truly out of this world.
Commander Peter Robson with the Challenger Learning Center in Rochester, New York gave third grade students an opportunity to experience the life of a NASA astronaut and started his presentation with a real blast… a video of the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch.
Through this exciting and interactive two-hour program the students explored how astronauts live and work aboard a space shuttle, including the science and technology that has gone into developing systems for bathing, using the restroom, sleeping and eating.
Eating is no simple task and the students saw how inventions such as magnetic lunch trays, magnetic silverware, and Velcro help astronauts safely consume their food in a low gravity environment.
Commander Robson talked about some of the more popular food items that make the journey to space – Skittles, tang, and shrimp cocktail because the spicy sauce clears the astronauts’ sinuses; and then one food item that never makes the journey – bread, because of the safety and health risks of floating crumbs.
The students were every intrigued by microgravity and Robson showed them several video clips of how astronauts sleep and wash their hair as well as a video of astronauts popping a water balloon.
Unlike what would happen on earth, when a water balloon is popped in space the surface tension returns the water to a sphere-like shape.
Commander Robson brought a piece of a space shuttle, a heat tile, to share with the students as well. More than 20,000 heat tiles cover the surface of a space shuttle, providing a thermal protection barrier and allowing a shuttle to withstand temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
The commander talked to the students about atmospheric friction and the need for the tiles to absorb heat during retry to Earth and likened it to the heat a person feels when he/she rubs their hands together for several seconds.
The students also learned about robots, rovers and the exploration of Mars and how current assessments of the planet will prepare NASA for future explorations by astronauts.
The students also saw rare footage of the first non-human NASA astronaut, Robonaut 2, and learned some interesting facts about human astronauts and their training. For example, for every hour in space an astronaut spends 10 hours training in a neutral buoyancy or water lab that is roughly four stories deep.
Also interesting to note, many astronauts suffer from dehydration upon returning from space while several others report losing their fingernails because of the bulky gloves that cut off their circulation and chafe their hands.
Amidst the students’ gasps and “ewwws,” Commander Robson said, “Astronauts are not just curious, they are willing to make sacrifices for space.”
The program inspired students to think about space as well as see how math, science and technology work congruently to achieve common goals and help forward our society and our understanding of the universe.