Tag Archives: space station

My Little Aspiring Astronaut

Tonight my daughter asked me one of the inevitable questions of childhood: how do you go to the bathroom in space?  To answer, I naturally turned to… ok, this is embarrassing for someone with three space-related  technical degrees to admit – I turned to YouTube.  I thought about getting out some books, making explanations, drawing pictures.  But I figured the internet would not fail to provide a video, which would do a much better job of explaining than I possibly could.

The internet did not fail me.  The first thing to come up in the search was a marvelous video of astronaut Sunita Williams giving a tour of the International Space Station.  The video had not only a tour of the bathroom facilities, but also all the rest of the living facilities.

This was a double win, as my daughter and I got to see the kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping areas on the ISS and we also reinforced the whole “if she can see it, she can be it” concept by watching an excellent female STEM role model in action.

Here’s where the story gets really great.  After watching the whole video with wide-eyed enthrallment, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, will you buckle me in and take me to the space station now?”  Oh, kiddo.  Would I ever love to do just that.

So it turns out explaining how astronauts go to the bathroom in space is pretty easy.  Explaining to a four-year-old that we can’t just head off to visit space right now is hard.  I think I lost her somewhere in between “do well in school” and “work hard” but the spark is there, at least.  I have definitely passed the ‘space fever’ on to my kid!

Oh, and here’s the video:

Tomorrow I think we’ll look for some good Chris Hadfield videos as well.

Guess it’s time to start saving up for that first trip to Space Camp?

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Filed under Geek parenting resources, Geeking out

STEM Female Role Model Spotlight: COL Eileen Collins, NASA’s First Female Space Shuttle Commander

COL Eileen Collins is a retired Air Force Test Pilot and was the first woman to pilot the space shuttle, as well as the first woman to command a space shuttle.  When she first entered the Air Force, women were not allowed to fly combat aircraft, a ban that stood until 1993.  But that did not stop Eileen Collins from flying every aircraft she was allowed to and blazing a trail for female pilots in the Air Force and at NASA.

She has logged over 6751 flight hours.  She is highly educated, holding a B.A. in mathematics & economics, an M.S. in operations research, and an M.A. in space systems management, as well as honorary degrees.  She has been a pilot, a mathematics instructor, and flight instructor, and went through the prestigious Air Force Test Pilot School.  Married to a fellow pilot, she is also a mother of two.  Her awards would take several paragraphs to list.

COL Collins was selected for astronaut training in 1990 and in her sixteen years at NASA she worked a variety of jobs and flew four STS missions, for a total of 872 hours in space.  She made two trips to the Mir space station, twice executing one of the most difficult space piloting tasks there is: docking with a space station.  She also had one of the toughest missions imaginable on her final flight, STS-114, when she commanded the first mission back to space following the Columbia tragedy.

I like her perspective on genders on the job, which reflects my own similar experience in the military:

“Within the job itself, the male-female commander, the male-female astronaut, it’s really the same,” Collins said. “What really matters is how the person does their job.”

And I especially love her life advice for young people aspiring to a similar career:

“My advice to young people is this. Focus on three major areas: academics, activities, and your physical health. I encourage you, especially when you get into high school and you can choose some of the courses you take, to take the tough courses. Don’t just avoid a course because you think you might not get an “A.” Take the tough courses like math, science, and engineering. Learn a variety of things while you have the opportunity.”

COL Collins is an inspiring female role model in not just STEM fields, but also for kids who want to be pilots, astronauts, serve in the military, or really to excel in any chosen field.  

Sources:

http://www.astronautix.com/astros/colileen.htm

http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/preparingtravel/eileen_collins_profile.html

http://www.space.com/2360-nasa-female-shuttle-commander-retires-spaceflight.html

http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/collins.html

https://www.greatwomen.org/women-of-the-hall/search-the-hall/details/2/40-Collins

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/collinseileen/

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/nasa/astronaut-eileen-collins-on-what-it-was-like-to-fly-the-space-shuttle

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/npr/rego/interviews/collins.htm

http://www.windows2universe.org/people/astronauts/collins-e.html

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