On Friday, I was asked by a 2nd grade teacher to come in and talk with her students about my upcoming trip to space since I am leaving next week. I was happy to visit but was concerned at how much 2nd graders understood about space. The kids were engaged and had a lot of great questions. Here are some questions on the mind of 2nd graders when I tell them I’m going to be flying just outside the atmosphere:
- How will you sleep?
Since I will only be airborne for 12 hours at a time, sleep is not that important. But, I assured them I would have plenty of time to sleep when I am on the ground so that I can enjoy the full experience.
- Will you wear a helmet (got that one 4 times)?
A helmet would be needed if I left the aircraft because there is limited oxygen at that altitude. However, since I do not plan to intentionally leave the aircraft, no helmet is needed.
- Will you fly the plane?
They have specially trained people to do that. They’re called pilots. If I’m asked to fly the plane, I would respectfully refuse.
- Will the plane shoot fire?
Rockets launched far into space need an extreme amount of propulsion which is the fire you see. There may be a small amount of fire coming from the initial propulsion, but since we don’t need to get that far up, we won’t see a whole lot.
- What will you eat?
Astronauts that go into space for extended periods of time, like on the International Space Station need specially dehydrated food to preserve. (I plan to get some Astronaut Ice Cream to show them upon my return.) However, since I will only be up there 12 hours, I can take most any kind of food I prefer.
- Will you float away?
This opened up a small lesson on what gravity is and why you float in space. Unfortunately, I won’t be high enough to be significantly away from the gravitational pull of the earth, which is what causes the weightlessness (known as Zero G). The other way I would float is if the plan descended at a rapid rate, which I sincere hope does not happen!
That’s the gist of the questions. They opened up some great conversations about how space and gravity work and what our atmosphere does for us. One student kept calling the atmosphere “the shield” so the other kids picked that up too. I survived the 2nd graders and their barrage of great questions. Next up, 1st grade on Monday morning!