So. Maryland students, test pilots, space station astronauts fire questions


WASHINGTON (November 8, 2022) – The U.S. Naval Test Pilot School partnered with K-12 schools in southern Maryland on Thursday, Oct. 27 to host a question-and-answer session with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Astronauts Nicole A. Mann, Frank Rubio and Josh Cassada of the Expedition 68 space station crew participated live in the space-to-earth downlink call, broadcast on NASA television.

Test pilots under instruction and students from seven Maryland schools pre-recorded videos at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, asking the astronauts various questions.

Lt. Erin Loft, a student test pilot, asked about the hardest part of adapting to microgravity conditions aboard the ISS, and Mann, the first Native American woman in space, asked. shown the Velcro strips sewn on the astronaut’s pants.

“You can imagine you’re such a mess when you’re trying to do something,” Mann said, as the airflow and microgravity inside the station causes the tools to float.

The astronauts gave Mann’s niece Brooklyn a glimpse into daily life on the ISS, where Mann said the day starts with breakfast at 6 a.m. before an “incredibly busy, busy 12 p.m. but very rewarding”, including the maintenance of the station and the scientific experiments on board.

“No day is like any other day, we have to do a lot of different jobs. Sometimes we play chief medical officer, sometimes we play plumber or electrician, but mostly we play scientist,” Rubio said.

Crew members monitor space station research experiments across a wide range of disciplines. A third-grade student from Leonardtown Elementary School asked which experiments astronauts were most looking forward to working on in space.

On Expedition 68, Rubio said, efforts are underway to grow organs in space and to grow tomato plants.

Rubio, who launched on Russia’s Soyuz MS-22 last month, said he recently harvested the first tomato grown in space. Lt. Jordan Hernandez asked how involved astronauts were in decision-making about experiments.

“Here we sort of find ourselves in the role of a graduate student,” Cassada said. Crew members take the advice of scientists on the ground to continue the experiments, but also contribute their own knowledge from space.

The skills Mann learned at test pilot school are “100% applicable to everyday life,” she told student Connor, because astronauts must be adaptable and learn quickly in order to perform. their tasks and communicate the results.

Cmdt. Jeremy DeBons, commandant of the US Naval Test Pilot School, said nearly 100 school graduates have gone on to become NASA astronauts.

Mann and Cassada both graduated from the school and served as test pilots in the US Marine Corps and US Navy before joining the expedition.

In their limited free time, Cassada said the crew enjoy playing with their meals in microgravity, making calls to Earth to follow their families, and peeking out of the station’s windows.

“Looking out that window, Earth and looking at that atmosphere, you realize how lucky we are to live on planet Earth. It’s a pretty place and we have to protect it,” Cassada said.

In addition to the test pilot school, Maryland schools participating in the call were Leonardtown Elementary School, Hollywood Elementary School, Town Creek Elementary School in Lexington Park, Evergreen Elementary School in California, Dowell Elementary School in Lusby, and Chesapeake Charter School and Esperanza Middle School, both in Lexington Park.


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