Season 3, Episode 11, #AskAbby Space and Science Show: Homeschool Edition
Presented by TheMarsGeneration.org
What Astronauts Eat, Bring and More!
In Episode 11 of #AskAbby Space and Science Show: Homeschool Edition, Abby “Astronaut Abby” Harrison answers questions posed by Rana Ziada’s math class at the Al Zahraa School in Gaza, Palestine about being an astronaut! Questions include: How does an astronaut eat and drink in space without gravity? What do astronauts take on their trip and what is the highest priority? We don’t have an airport and I have never seen a plane. I just want to ask you if there is a chance to be like you one day?
Transcription of “What Astronauts Eat, Bring and More!”
Hi everyone and welcome to #AskAbby: Homeschool Edition!
This is a new series of AskAbby meant to provide resources–as well as those much needed space jokes and bad puns–to students who are now doing distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each episode will feature questions submitted by students from around the world.
This episode will feature questions all about astronauts, and these questions were submitted by the 15- and 16-year-old students of teacher Rana, from the Al Zahraa School in Gaza, Palestine.
Question number one: How do you eat and drink in space without gravity?
As you might imagine, eating in microgravity is a little bit of a challenge. It’s actually a lot of a challenge, because if you don’t have the effects of gravity to hold your food down, you can make a mess really quickly before you even mean to. Food will just go flying everywhere, and that causes all kinds of problems. So the way that you have that not happen and not be an issue is through careful planning and preparation.
Before astronauts go to space, their meals are all planned for them and packaged really carefully. Things like drinks and some foods are packaged in pouches or other types of bags, that the astronauts can then consume them through a straw so that there’s never actually an open container. Other things that are open containers, they have velcro on the bottom of, and they can velcro them directly to their laps. Or they can have a tray, imagine like a TV dinner tray that you’d use at home. They have something like that that has special velcro on the bottom of it to velcro to their laps, to velcro to a wall, or to the floor, or wherever it is that they’re trying to eat. And then they can then velcro in the food containers as well to keep everything in place. And then after that, the astronauts work really hard to make sure that nothing goes flying away without them noticing it.
And part of nothing going flying away is that they consume foods that are not as crumbly as the foods that you would consume here on Earth. So anything that you can think about that has lots of little pieces to it, that breaks apart really easily, is not a good food for space. And they generally tend to try and send foods that are better suited for space travel, so less crumbly.
Question number two: What do you take with you on your trip and what’s the highest priority?
Astronauts actually aren’t allowed to take a whole lot with them, because any additional weight means that you need more rocket fuel to launch those things into space. And rocket fuel is very expensive.
That said, an astronaut’s emotional and mental wellbeing and health while in space is really important, and having some personal items, some things from home, can really help with that. So they are allowed to bring some things with them.
During the Shuttle Program they were allowed to bring up something called a Personal Preference Kit, or a PPK, which was essentially a little box that they had, that they could put in anything they wanted to bring, as long as it weighed together less than 1.5 lbs. This could be anything they wanted. It could be photo albums of their loved ones, small musical instruments, a favorite book.
Hmm…now I’m starting to think about what I would put in my PPK. How about you? What would you want to put in your PPK to take to space with you? Don’t forget it has to stay under 1.5 lbs.
And lastly, question number three: We don’t have an airport and I have never seen a plane. I just want to ask you if there is a chance to become an astronaut one day?
I honestly believe that if there’s a will, there’s a way. For example, NASA actually does accept naturalized citizens as astronauts, which means that you don’t have to be born in the United States in order to become an astronaut with NASA. So make a plan, study hard and keep dreaming big and chasing after your dream of being an astronaut. There’s no guarantee for any of us who are working towards becoming astronauts that we’ll actually end up in space someday.
But that’s definitely not a reason to stop dreaming or to not try. Because oftentimes you might find that the steps that you take along the way to try and become an astronaut will lead to amazing and incredible opportunities and experiences that you would never have had if you hadn’t tried. If you want more information on how to become an astronaut you can go ahead and check out the AskAbby video titled “How to become an astronaut,” which is linked below!
Today we learned about some of the ways that space agencies help astronauts to live and work in space. Everything from smart packaging of food to allowing astronauts to bring personal items from home to combat homesickness. Space agencies are working hard to help astronauts with all of the challenges that they’ll face in space.
We also talked about how you may have your own challenges in your path towards achieving your dreams.
Astronauts overcome tons and tons of challenges when they’re in space, so if you’re already facing challenges here on Earth, and learning how to overcome them, you’re building a toolbox of skills that will someday help you both get to space and once you’re in space.
And until next time, keep safe, keep healthy, and keep learning! So long fellow travelers of spaceship Earth.