Students Enjoy Lively Chat with Astronaut
by Judy Long
Astronaut John Phillips answered questions from elementary school-age children about his favorite space food, what the stars look like from space and how he sleeps at night, during a June 27 ham radio connection between the International Space Station and Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex.
The interview was sponsored by NASA's Amateur Radio on the International Space Station project, a joint educational effort of The U.S., Canada, Russia, the European Partners and Japan.
Phillips told the standing-room-only crowd of local students, who interviewed Phillips for nine minutes, that his favorite space food is Mexican, the stars from space look the same as they do from earth (except that the sky is always black) and he can see them night and day.
Phillips answered all questions cheerfully, even when asked, "If you know the job is so dangerous, why do you do it?" (He likes it, and he has wanted to be an astronaut since he was 10 years old.) He does "buckle up" to sleep, or at least, he buckles his sleeping bag so he won't float around, and, yes, he can use a compass in space. It points back to earth.
Phillips also told the crowd he talks to his family by cell phone every day, and he gets hot in his space suit. He doesn't really care which way is up or down -- it doesn't matter in space, and the space station is the size of a small house.
The museum hosted a Communications Day around the interview. Two six-minute Discovery Channel space station videos were available for viewing in the museum theater, while emergency communication vehicles parked outside invited visitors to step in for tours and the Waco Amateur Radio Club gave ham radio and Morse code demonstrations. The museum provided interactive games and straw rockets, and of course, plenty of visitors toured the museum's exhibits.
The museum conducted the event with the help of the Waco Amateur Radio Club.