The Soyuz spacecraft is photographed docked to the International Space Station during a mission of Russian cosmonauts in open space in this handout picture released August 24, 2012. Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Yuri Malenchenko conducted a 5 hour 50 minute-long mission in open space on August 20, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
NASA gave space fanatics around the globe a rare opportunity to chat with astronauts aboard the International Space Station Friday in a special Google+ Hangout.
The hour-long online live Q&A session gave audiences the chance to ask questions through Twitter and Facebook, or by pre-submitting on YouTube. Taking place just days after NASA Mission Control briefly lost communication with the craft, the chat included three astronauts from the space station's crew discussing everything from daily life in space to how astronauts deal with unexpected problems like the communications breakdown.
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"The space station is a robust, tough space ship," replied Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield in response to how the crew dealt with the communications problem, The Christian Science Monitor reported. "We worked together as a crew following the procedures as we're trained to do. After just a couple orbits, we had the computers talking to the antennas properly so we could talk to the ground. We were working together as a team."
Speaking from the $100 billion craft, the largest structure ever constructed in space, Hadfield explained the impetus for the mass online chat: "We are for the first time as a species leaving the planet in space stations and it is too good an experience not to share. With the technology that we now have we can real time communicate with pretty much everybody on Earth."
NASA astronauts flight engineer Tom Marshburn, and Expedition 34 commander Kevin Ford joined Hadfield in answering questions aboard the football field-sized ship orbiting 250 miles above the surface of the Earth, according to NBC News.
While stationed on the craft, the astronauts are conducting an array of experiments, many of which focus on how the human body reacts to zero gravity, and other such space phenomena. During the talk, Hadfield was hooked up to body temperature monitoring machines, explaining researchers are hoping to learn more about how the human body's circadian rhythms grapple with the 16 sunrises and sunsets astronauts experience daily.
"The whole point of having a space station is to have some place in space where people can take their ideas," Ford said to a high school class from Iowa. "We have a huge power supply up here. We have a lot of rack space, and we have a lot of scientists on the ground with a lot of ideas of things to do in space."