By - Sahar Aftab Paliwala
Our students embarked on an extraordinary STEM learning opportunity last month, courtesy of a captivating Zoom lesson facilitated by NASA astronauts. The event, organized in collaboration with the Houston Association for Space and Science Education (HASSE), opened a window into the fascinating realm of the International Space Station (ISS). Spearheaded by the dynamic duo of HASSE coordinators Caleb Bennett and Peter Lee, along with NASA's Mr. Richard, the session was a stellar success, leaving Year 9 through Year 13 students eagerly anticipating the next two installments.
The overarching theme for this cosmic rendezvous was "Floating Food and Puffy Faces: Life on the ISS." As Mr. Richard took center stage, the virtual classroom transformed into a space-age auditorium, buzzing with curiosity and excitement.
The International Space Station, a colossal multinational project, has been a hub of scientific exploration since its launch in November, 2000. It serves as both a living space and a workplace for crews of three to six individuals, who collaborate on groundbreaking experiments and the station's maintenance. With the introduction of SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2020, the ISS crew capacity expanded to seven members, ushering in a new era of space exploration.
Astronauts on the ISS lead a life that is a unique blend of work and adventure. Their daily routine includes experiments, maintenance tasks, and a minimum of two hours of exercise to counteract the effects of microgravity. Beyond their scientific duties, astronauts also engage in public relations events, showcasing the human side of space exploration.
Mission lengths on the ISS typically span six months, with crews adhering to a meticulously planned daily schedule. A day in the life of an astronaut begins at 06:00 with a wake-up call, followed by post-sleep activities and a morning station inspection. After breakfast and a planning conference with Mission Control, the real work kicks off at 08:10. The morning is dedicated to exercise, followed by a work period until 13:05. An hour-long lunch break provides a brief respite before the afternoon session, consisting of more exercise and work.
Weekdays see astronauts working ten-hour shifts, with Saturdays offering a slightly more relaxed schedule of five hours. The remaining time is allocated for relaxation, personal reflection, or catching up on work. Special holidays bring a modified routine, often accompanied by care packages containing themed items or special meals to maintain the astronauts' connection to Earth. Scheduled time off allows them to connect with their families through video calls, offering a glimpse into the human side of these cosmic explorers.
As our students delved into the intricacies of life on the ISS, they gained a newfound appreciation for the dedication and resilience of the astronauts who call it home. The students, displaying their keen curiosity, posed thought-provoking questions about data security and the safety of astronauts in the vastness of space, receiving insightful and reassuring answers from the gracious Mr. Richard. The first of three sessions was not just a lesson; it was a portal into the cosmos, inspiring dreams of floating food and puffy faces among the stars. With two more sessions on the horizon, we are ready for more interstellar adventures and the boundless knowledge that awaits in the vastness of space.