One of the most common questions I get when I visit classrooms is if I’ve been to space. Kids want to know that they can ask me questions about space and get first-hand answers. They want to ask questions such as “How does it feel to be weightless?” or “What does it smell like in space?”
Although I do tell kids that I haven’t been to space, and probably won’t get a chance to go for at least another 10-12 years, my answer isn’t entirely disappointing. I also get to tell them that I have a very good friend who spent six months in space, and that he told me a lot about it!
Working as Astronaut Luca Parmitano’s Earth Liaison during his time on board the International Space Station was an amazing experience for me. I got to learn all about his life and experiences in space. Even more though, I was able to, and continue to, share everything that I learned from Luca with kids and adults around the world. During those six months I wrote blog posts updating people on the activities of Expeditions 36 and 37, I published pictures other people sent to me of the ISS (with Luca inside), and helped to get questions about space answered from space with #AskLuca.
I thought that once Luca came back to Earth, my job as Earth Liaison would end. Oh boy was I wrong! Despite not personally knowing anyone currently on the ISS, I now have a wealth of materials published from Luca’s time in space. When students ask me how we can talk to people in orbit, I can explain the process to them and then play them a recording from 2013 when I visited Marshall Space Flight Centers Payload Operations Control Center, or PayCom, and got to speak directly to Luca. When adults ask me whether or not being in space can feel claustrophobic, I can refer them to the blog post I wrote about Luca’s #AskLuca answer to that exact question.
I can now, and for the rest of my life, combine my passion and excitement for the future of space travel, and my future, with the knowledge and experiences of our current space program.
So what questions do you have about living in space? Please feel free to ask me below in the comment section and I will either answer with what I know or I will Ask Luca for you!