American astronaut Joe Tanner visited the Fort Morgan High School this afternoon to present the foundations of a NASA career. For 24 years, Tanner has remained within the walls of the well-known NASA company, working 8 years as a research pilot and 16 years as an astronaut. While he has made these exciting, informative speeches “many times,” according to his wife, Martha, it was only last August that the Tanners moved from Houston, Texas to Boulder, Colorado, to continue interacting with students. There, Joe is now a professor at CU Boulder.
Tanner focused on just one of the four flights he has embarked on to outer space during his time in front of the student body. The flight was aboard the 115th to the International Space Station. He began bluntly, going right in to the inner workings of the space shuttle; defining technical terms such as “astrovan,” “T38,” and “bright orange suits;” and also describing what it was like to be in space:
“Someone once asked me ‘Do astronauts play with their food in space?’ ‘Sure!’ I siad. ‘Why?’ ‘There’s no one there to tell us not to.”
Students seemed to be very interested in the food that astronauts ate, perhaps because of their continual apetite. He elaborated greatly on this subject, telling of the dehydrated meals, crackers, Capri-Sun styled beverages, and also, “the chocolate-coated candies formally called M&M’s. But we can’t call them M&M’s because that’d be free advertising.”
Tanner said that you definitely, “become quite good at figuring out what continent you’re over,” but that, “your eye balls get kind of messed-up when you’re in space.”
Covering 3.7 million miles in just under 12 days on one trip, Joe Tanner has had an experience some can only dream of. During the question-answer portion of the presentation, many students seemed exceedingly more interested in this exciting career field than others. Some student questions and Tanner replies included:
If you were to smoke in space,
would it blow up the space shuttle?
No, the, “air is the same in the shuttle.”
There are no added fire hazards.
Where do you get water when
you’re in space?
“The shuttle makes its own water…
it gets energy from the sun and converts
it to electricity… [usnig this] we mix
Hydrogen and Oxygen to make water.”
How much do you get paid to go
to outer space?
Astronauts get a mere $2 extra a day,
but that’s on top of their awesome yearly
salary of up to 120K (careeronestop.org).
Tanner jokingly said that he could use that
check while he was in space to hit up a
nearby cheeseburger joint.
What missions are there planned
for the future?
“Our goal is to go back to the moon by
2019, 2020… Hopefully, eventually, we’ll
go to Mars.” Tanner said this might not be
until after audience hopefuls are much too
old to take part in space flight, around 2035.
How do you become an astronaut?
“You have to get a good education,”
emphasized Tanner. From there, anyone
can pursue becoming an astronaut.
He said that they currently have a middle
school science teacher expecting to leave
on an orbiter soon.