Recorder: "LIFE IN SPACE - Local astronaut talks about living in space with middle schoolers"

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LIFE IN SPACE

Local astronaut talks about living in space with middle schoolers

By PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer

GREENFIELD — In space, ice cream melts. But it doesn’t drip. Which doesn’t mean it won’t make a mess if you let it melt, and then take a too forceful of a bite while orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station in zero gravity.

That is just one of the stories told by astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman of Shelburne, who spent 159 days orbiting the earth. Visiting the Greenfield Middle School Robotics Club on Wednesday afternoon, she talked about the many challenges of living in space during her stay on the station and two missions on the Space Shuttle.

The students had prepared questions about the mental health and wellness of living in space, as they discussed possible missions to Mars in their Robotics Club theme of “Into Orbit.”

Student Joey Seaman asked what space food is like, and Coleman responded that it “was okay” and that the dried camping food and MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, probably tasted better because they were in space, explaining food always tastes better when you work hard for it. Using a needle-like faucet to squirt water into bags to rehydrate mac ’n cheese and other foods was important, because it represented comfort food, and helped with the mental health of the astronauts, she said. That is why they get to bring some food of their choosing on the missions — as long as it is approved and practical. Hence, real ice cream.

William Ainsworth asked if you get taller in space. The short answer is “yes,” Coleman said, as your spine relaxes without the pressures of gravity. Coleman explained she was an inch and a quarter taller when she first got back from space. She went on to explain the same thing happens to people every night when they sleep here on Earth, al-though to a much smaller degree. So, she said, you are slightly taller in the morning.

Jackson Caron asked about how to prevent “going crazy” on long space trips. Coleman said the excitement of being in space and working on experiments really prevents boredom. They do have access to books, television shows and movies. Studios provide them with the current movie releases so they don’t feel left out on popular culture while away. She also alluded to virtual reality goggles, where one might visit their favorite places on Earth or visit with friends in real time in the future, much like visiting a place on Google Earth on the internet.

Asked about how people are chosen for teams for space flights, she said the more diverse the group, the better. People with different backgrounds and interests are better at solving problems than a group of like-minded individuals, she said.

Coleman said it important for young people with open minds to go into the Space Program. She encouraged the young students, and many stayed beyond class time to take pictures with her and explain their First Lego League robots and their upcoming competition in December, which will be led by middle school teacher Ashley Winn.