Influential NASA Astronauts and Chief Space Scientist Chat With NPR
On Tuesday, NASA astronauts Cady Coleman, Serena Auñón, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan visited NPR headquarters to discuss women in STEM, space exploration, and more. People were able to send in questions via the hashtag #NPRSpaceJam.
Check out some of the highlights from their chat below:
On describing the experience of being in space
Samantha Cristoforetti: "I felt instantly at home in space. Visually, we understand the main thing about being in space is that you're weightless. And that's also sensationwise what you feel the most, of course. I loved it from the beginning. ... Of course, I was very clumsy, I couldn't move around elegantly — that came several weeks later, but I felt fine. I felt great. I enjoyed so much that feeling of being light, of being able to own that space in the three dimensions. Especially for the first weeks or even months, I just enjoyed going to eat on the ceiling or hanging out on the wall."
On working in space exploration
Cady Coleman: "I've been there a little longer and I think there's a balance between what you decide you're going to change and how you can change it. Spacewalking in the suit, it's particularly large and bulky, and I'd say that's the place where, at least for me, being in shape is important in terms of ability and confidence. I wouldn't always get invited to the spacesuit meetings. Guys of equal size or just a little bigger would get invited, so I would just show up and say, 'Oh you must have forgotten to invite me.' ... It used to surprise them that I had the spacesuit capability and I'm very proud to be qualified in a spacesuit. There's ways to change things, just by showing up and doing your job."
On the best depictions of space in the media
Cady Coleman: "I actually loved the 'Gravity' movie. ... There's a lot of things that are in terms in physics inaccurate, but to me it's about where they take you. The fact that I regret very much I can't take all the people that I love with me. And I think that that movie not only gives them the view but the feeling of having the view. Now I'm looking forward to seeing 'The Martian.'"
On surprising space discoveries and realizations
Ellen Stofan: "The fact that there was water once on Mars is not surprising; we've known that for a very long time. But our Curiosity rover has told us that water was stable on the surface for about a billion years. We're really excited about that because that's enough time, we think, to make it likely that life evolved on the planet. ... It's the place that we can send humans to go and hopefully find evidence that there is life beyond the Earth.
[But] if you're ever interested in sailing on an alien sea, Titan would be the place to go. Titan is a moon of Saturn. It rains but the rain there is not water. It's liquid methane and ethane, so basically liquid gasoline. That's because it's so cold out of the orbit of Saturn. There are seas; you could send a boat there someday and float on them and figure out what they're made of and if — by a small chance — anything is actually living in those seas."
On food cravings while traveling in space
Samantha Cristoforetti: My biggest craving was a big salad with a lot of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and nuts.
Serena Auñón: One day I hope they're able to get warm oatmeal chocolate chip cookies up there. That would be awesome.
Cady Coleman: I missed things that were crunchy. Things like potato chips would get smushed and then they'd be just crumbs and would be impossible to eat. You'd have a cloud of potato chips.
You can check out more highlights from their discussion with NPR here.
Photo Credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images