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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Astronauts tell kids about life on shuttle


Staff writer

Orbiting the Earth is not all fun and games. But when it is, the astronauts aboard the space shuttle Endeavour passed the time during their 16-day mission in March to the International Space Station doing flips in zero gravity and filling balls of water with chocolate candies, its pilot confided Tuesday in Tokyo.

News photo
Greetings, Earthling!: Takao Doi (right) and other astronauts who crewed the space shuttle Endeavour during its March mission greet high school students at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday. SATOKO KAWSAKI PHOTO

"We take time to do fun games like somersaults," Endeavour pilot Gregory Johnson told junior high and high school students at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, responding to a question from one of the 169 youngsters about how the crew dealt with stress and boredom during the mission.

"It's a very small confined space that we are inside," Johnson said of the compartment in ISS where the seven Endeavour crew members stayed.

Six of the crew members were on hand to talk to students from Tokyo and Fukuoka and Okinawa prefectures, with students from the latter two prefectures participating via video linkup.

Mission specialist Takao Doi described throwing a boomerang in zero G — and watching it return to him.

Asked how living in space affected their bodies, mission specialist Richard Linnehan said: "The first couple of days, my face looked like a sponge. Everybody is very swollen with reddened eyes." He added that it takes several days for their faces to return to normal.

Asked if humans can live in space, Doi said: "We will be able to live in space in the future if we all become friends. We have to work peacefully as friends, that is the most important thing."

Endeavour carried the first of the three components of Japan's Kibo space laboratory, a stowage module, to the ISS, as well as a new robotic arm developed by the Canadian Space Agency.

Kibo is Japan's first manned space facility and is designed to accommodate up to four astronauts who will perform experiments.

The six crew members were invited to Tokyo by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.



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