Ask 7-year-old Zen Budden what career she wants to pursue in the future, and the answer is “astronaut.” Space has captured the imagination of the Montessori Center School student.
The Santa Barbara resident had the opportunity Wednesday to talk with a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station, and she learned about an astronaut’s profession during a free event organized by the Santa Barbara Public Library.
Budden was one of several children attending the library’s various summer programs and asked questions of astronaut Nick Hague. He offered insights about space exploration and research impossible on Earth, as well as daily activities in zero gravity and seeing the world from a unique perspective.
The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program, in cooperation with NASA, supported the event. Radio communication was coordinated by volunteers with the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club and ARISS mentors.
“It was fun,” Budden said. “It was different because you have a microphone in your face.”
The question-and-answer session lasted about 10 minutes, and the radio contact had to be timed with the International Space Station’s orbit above California.
The public was invited to the event.
Onlookers sitting inside the library’s Faulkner Gallery fell silent as the amateur radio operator contacted Hague.
“Alright, we got you,” the radio operator said. “Here is our first question.”
The participant gripping the microphone, 6-year-old Eve, asked Hague about the most interesting thing he has seen while floating around on the International Space Station. He thanked her for the question.
“Without a doubt, the most interesting thing that I see from the space station — since I have been here — is when I look out the window and see the Earth,” Hague responded. “Every time I look outside, I see something new that I didn’t know was down there. It tells me how special of a planet we are on.”
Hague became a NASA astronaut in 2013. Before that, he was part of the U.S. Air Force Fellows program and worked as an adviser to the U.S. Senate on matters of foreign policy and national defense, according to NASA. He arrived at the space station earlier this year.
Another student, 6-year-old Jacob, asked Hague whether there are planets where humans may be able to live someday.
“I love the question,” Hague responded. “So far, we have ideas of where we want to go. But, we have to get there and figure it out.
“We are trying to go back to the moon, and work, and test out how we would live on another planet — on the moon because it’s close. Soon after that, we are going to go on Mars. … It’s an exciting future.”
Jenna, 10, followed and asked how astronauts shower in space.
Hague said that it’s like taking a sponge bath. Astronauts wipe their bodies clean by using a damp towel.
“A shower like you think of isn’t something we can take up here (in space) because the water floats everywhere,” Hague said. “It’s a little bit different.”
The goal of the amateur radio aboard the International Space Station is to promote exploration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by arranging scheduled radio contact between crew on the space station and young people in classrooms or public settings.
“We hope these events inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, dreamers and explorers,” said Levi Maaia, a member of the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club. “I believe we have had four contacts in Santa Barbara.”
After communication with Hague concluded, attendees could continue improving their knowledge about space through other activities at the Santa Barbara Public Library.
The library selected a space-themed reading program this summer to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, said Molly Wetta, acting library services manager.
Additional space-related activities are scheduled through July at the library, 40 E. Anapamu St. Click here for a complete calendar of summer events at the library.