Commander Peter Robson, with the Challenger Learning Center in Rochester, was recently welcomed back for a second time to Granby Elementary School.
Robson began his presentation with showing third graders a video of the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch, the last of NASA’s space planes to retire.
Students learned about past missions and new technologies being developed by NASA.
Robson explained to students how they were the future of space exploration. In 30 years’ time, an astronaut could get to Mars in as little as a month, versus the seven months it takes now. In three decades the third graders will be around 38 to 40 years old, the average age of an astronaut.
Through the inquiry-based presentation, students developed an appreciation of what astronauts must do to prepare for space flight.
Eating, sleeping and personal hygiene is no simple task for an astronaut. Astronauts must cross their arms while sleeping, to keep them from floating in front of them or above their head. Students giggled at pictures of astronauts who forgot to strap their arms in while settling in to get some shuteye.
There are 40 full-time chefs at NASA. Commander Robson talked about some of the more popular food items that make the journey to space, skittles and shrimp cocktail being among the favorites. Astronauts can expect to develop a head cold during their first few days in flight. The horseradish in the cocktail sauce helps to clear their astronaut’s sinuses.
What is the least popular food item among astronauts? To the students surprise it is chocolate. Chocolate has more of a glue-like consistency in space, and is bitter to the taste.
The four classes learned about robots and rovers, and saw rare footage of the first non-human NASA astronaut, Robonaut 2.
One of the students’ favorite demonstrations was when Robson shot a laser at student’s hands to find their temperature. Blood flows to astronaut’s brain in space, leaving poor circulation in their fingers. Often astronauts will need to put on gloves to warm their hands and prevent frostbite.
Students returned to their classrooms to try astronaut food, including dehydrated strawberries, bananas and ice cream.