Answering questions from everyday people, Scott Kelly conducted NASA’s first Ask Me Anything from space on Jan. 23, 2016. Photo Credit: NASA
International Space Station (ISS) Commander Scott Kelly conducted NASA’s first Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) from space, answering questions ranging from what it’s like to work with an international crew to whether-or-not a rogue spaceship could sneak-up on the orbiting outpost.
The AMA lasted a little over an hour on Saturday, Jan. 23 starting at 3 p.m. CST (20:00 GMT). It was the Expedition 46 commander’s 302nd consecutive day in space since he arrived at the outpost last March for his Year in Space mission. This is his fourth spaceflight and he is the current American record-holder for the most total days in space was well as for the single longest mission.
“I still have a way to go before I return to our planet,” Kelly said on Reddit, “So, I look forward to connecting with you all back on spaceship Earth to talk about my experiences so far as I enter my countdown to when I will begin the riskiest part of this mission: coming home.”
Kelly is scheduled to return home with Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Korniyenko and Sergey Volkov on March 3, in Soyuz TMA-18M.
Kelly, who has been on two spacewalks in his career, was asked by Reddit user ImPastamonium what it feels like to have nothing but at suit between him and space. Kelly responded that it was a little surreal to know he was in his own personal “spaceship” and only a few inches from him was instant death. Photo Credit: NASA
Many of the questions asked had to do with health effects on Kelly’s body due to weightlessness.
“There are a lot of changes that happen [to your body in space],” Kelly said. “Some of them you can’t see, because it’s your eyes!”
In space, body fluids shift upwards toward the head. This causes, among other things, the eye to experience more pressure, changing its shape. This shape change can alter vision.
“My muscles and joints are a whole lot better up here than with gravity,” Kelly said, responding to a user’s question about stretching in space versus on Earth. “It’s almost like you are in a bed rest. There is no pressure or pain. I do stretch before I exercise because my muscles aren’t stretched out, they are somewhat dormant.”
While some questions were more technical, other were more about life in space.
“If you had a big scoop of something powdery, like if you were measuring out cinnamon or another powered spice, would it float around in a little powdered blobby cloud,” user ventphan asked.
“It would be a disaster to have something powder like that,” Kelly said. “Depending on how much it was, we would possibly consider shutting down the ventilation to stop it from spreading.”
Kelly also mentioned that he uses a liquid salt, as opposed to granular salt used on Earth, to season his food as to avoid it spreading throughout the modules.
User Maximsalehson asked what Kelly focused mostly on in high school.
“Unfortunately for me, I focused on looking out the window and daydreaming, which took a lot of effort to recover from,” Kelly said adding that it proves anything is possible.
Kelly told user pighalf what he thought was the most unusual thing about being in space that most people don’t think of: calluses.
“The calluses on your feet in space will eventually fall off,” Kelly said. “So, the bottoms of your feet become very soft like newborn baby feet.”
Kelly said, however, that the top of his feet develop “rough alligator skin” due to the use of hand and foot rails to get around the modules of the station.
One user asked what Kelly thought was the largest misconception about space exploration that society holds onto. He said he thinks it is the idea that space is easy.
“I think a lot of people think, that because we give the appearance that this is easy, that it is easy,” Kelly said. “I don’t think people have an appreciation for the work that it takes to pull these missions off, like humans living on the space station continuously for 15 years. It [takes] a huge army of hard working people to make it happen.”
Other questions included what he thought the most interesting science experiment he worked on was, if the ISS has any particular smell, and what it feels like having nothing but a suit between him and space.
The first flower from the Veggie experiment bloomed last week. Kelly tweeted a picture of the flower with the caption, “Yes, there are other life forms in space!” The experiment first grew lettuce, before being used to test growing techniques for flowers in November. Next, the Veggie experiment will attempt to grow tomatoes. Photo Credit: Scott Kelly / NASA
Also asked was Kelly’s view on how the space station has aged over the last decade and a half.
“It seems like the inside of the space station has very good material condition,” Kelly said. “The outside looks a little aged.”
Regarding whether or not to keep the space station going indefinitely, Kelly said it depends on what priorities are.
“Everything has costs,” Kelly said.
Finally, a father asked for one of his children if a rogue spaceship could sneak up on the space station without the crew being aware.
“Maybe [if it was] an alien spaceship with a cloaking device,” Kelly said, “but not your normal spaceship, no. Unless it had a cloaking device, which doesn’t exist, the U.S. Air Force would see it coming.”
“Thanks [Commander] Kelly for your response,” the father replied back, “I just read this to the boys and now they think this sort of exchange is an everyday occurrence. Boy, the future is awesome.”
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield beat NASA to the punch in terms of being first to conduct a Reddit AMA from on orbit—in 2013.
To read more questions and answers, visit the Scott Kelly AMA page.
Video courtesy of Scott Kelly
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor. @TheSpaceWriter