Astronaut offers insights on coronavirus from space station – Community Impact Newspaper

Posted: May 8, 2020 at 10:52 am

Christopher Cassidy answered educators' questions from the International Space Station at a Space Center Houston-sponsored live event. (Screenshot of May 6 livestream)

NASA astronaut and current space station commander Christopher Cassidy answered educators questions from 250 miles above the Earth during a livestream event May 6.

Pre-recorded questions for Cassidy came from Space Center Houstons international network of educators and the Space Exploration Educator Crew. Space Center Houston is the official visitor center of NASAs Johnson Space Center, where astronauts are trained to further the agencys space exploration goals.

Astronauts have continuously lived and worked on the space station for nearly two decades, testing technologies, performing experiments and developing the skills needed to explore farther from Earth, according to a Space Center Houston news release. NASAs Mission Control Center in Houston communicates 24 hours a day with the astronauts living in space on the orbiting laboratory through the Space Networks Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.

Space Center Houston aims to link educators and students directly to astronauts aboard the space station and provide authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance and interest in STEM, per the release. Videos and lesson plans highlighting research on the International Space Station are available at The live event was hosted in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, which takes place May 4-8.

Cassidy answered various questions during the half-hour broadcast and gave insights on coronavirus-related matters. Here are three takeaways from Cassidy about how the world is responding to coronavirus.

Although large gatherings of people have been virtually eliminated across the world in light of the pandemic, Cassidy said nothing in Earths atmosphere or cloud formations has indicated major changes to the physical landscape.

Weve been asked a few times, and I really have been trying with some diligence to see if theres anything perceivable that I can notice with my eye, Cassidy said in response to the question. You dont see that quite so much these days.

He added, however, that he sees less airplane contrailsthe line-shaped clouds produced by aircraft engine exhaust that form behind planesin the skies from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station.

It seems to me that airplane activity is less, he said.

I will tell you that its tough to find the balance between ... being there when youre needed and not overstepping your bounds, Cassidy said.

A Texas-based teacher asked Cassidy about his most successful failure. He described a space walk that failed logistically due to unforeseen circumstances and said that the long-term impacts of that failed space walk included new improvements to operational safety. Cassidy and the rest of the crew could laugh about it once the helmets came off, he said, because ultimately their teamwork still yielded positive results.

He likened this approach to how students and educators can best adapt amid school closures and the challenges of remote instruction: Work together and do not discount the importance of team-building skills.

Youve got to know when to be a leader and when to be a follower, and itll all pull together, he said. The technical things we can train ... its those soft skills that are of critical importance.

In certain times we can access the Internet up here. ... So you gave me a good homework assignment, he told the teacher who asked the question.

According to NASAs press desk, the agency first took action last month. NASA launched a call for ideas April 1 on its internal crowdsourcing platform NASA@WORK for how the agency can leverage its expertise and capabilities to assist with the global crisis. In two weeks the agency received 250 ideas, with more than 500 comments submitted and more than 4,500 votes cast, according to a news release.

Engineers at NASAs jet propulsion laboratory in California designed a new high-pressure ventilator tailored specifically to treat the coronavirus patients called VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), which passed a critical test April 21 at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New Yorkan epicenter of the virus in the United States. Other efforts include a positive pressure oxygen helmetwhich functions similar to a CPAP machine and used to treat patients exhibiting minor symptoms, minimizing the need for ventilators with those patientsand a new surface decontamination system.

VITAL is under review for an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, as is the Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet, per the release.

"NASA's strength has always been our ability and passioncollective and individualfor solving problems," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in the release. "All the work being done shows how NASA is uniquely equipped to aid in the federal response to coronavirus by leveraging the ingenuity of our workforce, mobilizing investments made in the U.S. space agency to combat this disease, and working with public and private partnerships to maximize results."

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Astronaut offers insights on coronavirus from space station - Community Impact Newspaper

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