Down to Earth: Astronaut talks with engineering students about trip to space

The last time Steve Swanson chatted with Colorado State University students and “visited” campus he was 205 miles above the Earth at the International Space Station. The NASA astronaut conducted a live, interactive chat with students in April, sporting CSU gear and holding a Cam the Ram bobble head doll. space chat 2 Swanson returned to Earth in September. He stopped by CSU on October 4 to visit his son and talk to students in a beginning engineering course about NASA and his five-month stint in space. “This is an opportunity you don’t get very often so take advantage of it,” Tom Siller, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and one of the course instructors, told students. The astronaut, who has made three trips to space, talked briefly and then fielded questions for the next 40 minutes. Here are some questions students asked Swanson and his answers: What kind of work did you do at the International Space Station? My main job was to do science. It is basically a national laboratory. There are about 170 experiments aboard. I wasn’t the principal investigator but I worked on experiments and kept the space station running. I spent 40 percent of my time on the science, 40 percent maintaining the ship and 20 percent of my time working out and staying in shape. Ten years ago, people didn’t work out while in space and it took them much longer to recover when they returned. What is it like to be in zero gravity? Steve in Space It’s actually really fun and one of the best parts about being in space. It never gets old doing a flip off the wall. But it does make it hard to do work. You have to learn that you can’t just set your tools on a workbench until you need them. They float away after a few seconds. You learn to tape them down and store them so they don’t float away. How is the food in space? The food in space has to have a shelf life of four years so that sh ould tell you a lot. It doesn’t have much flavor but if you put enough sriracha sauce on it, you can eat it. Am I happy to be home and eating regular food? Yes. How did you feel when you got back? The landings are like being in a car crash, but you are in a seat that is molded to your body. It’s not a soft landing. Once we landed, the first guy got out and then I had to move over and pull myself up for the first time in five and a half months. The first day I was very wobbly because it was my first time walking in a while.  Once I got to Houston, I underwent eight hours of testing where doctors took blood and biopsied my muscles. Eight days after landing, I was back to my pre-flight levels.

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