Sunday, July 19, 2009


Originally uploaded by marymactavish.
Don Pettit is up there among my favorite astronauts because he's *so* nerdy, so much fun, his science videos are wonderful.

He's truly and simply excited, and good at explaining the science he's researching in space, as well as other little things like "how do you eat peanut butter and honey in space?"

He's got a strong sense of wonder, and appreciates the question "what will happen if I do this?"

Dr. Pettit spoke at NASA Ames Moonfest, which is the main reason I went.

Some of my favorite questions from people at Moonfest:

"Can you see a solar eclipse from space?" from a kid. Pettit said it looked like illustrations in a textbook, with a visible umbra and penumbra on the ground, and yes, he's seen one.

One very young child asked, "How old do you have to be to go in space?" Pettit said that technically there's no lower age limit (upper either, for that matter) but that people should go to college, get a degree, then do something with it that shows NASA that you would be useful on their team. Most folks are within a few years of 40 when chosen. And he's going back in a couple of years, via Soyuz, to work on the ISS again.

One child asked, "if you sneeze in space is there just a glob of spit floating around?" There was much laughter. Pettit said that when you sneeze on the ISS or shuttle, you can just reach out and grab it with a dry wipe (I suppose that would be the glob, rather than the atomization), but inside a helmet, "You just have to live with the results."

Pettit also shared that they call the new toilet -> urine-processor -> galley setup the "coffee machine" as it turns yesterday's coffee into today's.

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