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Indian students talk live with space for the first time

File photo of ISS commander Michael Fincke. NASA photo

GUWAHATI (PTI): An American astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) today talked live with the students of a school here for the first time in the country's space history.

NASA astronaut Edward Michael 'Mike' Fincke, who is married to an Assamese girl, answered 14 questions of students of Assam Jatiya Vidyalalya at a programme organised by Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters (FASS), an organisation of non-resident Assamese, in coordination with NASA.

The ground station of Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS) at north California coordinated the talk and the audience, comprising more than one thousand people, heard Fincke answer the students' queries over telephone connected to the ISS ground station which established the link with the spaceship.

Students got a fresh insight into the world of space with Fincke informing them that they sleep normally inside the spaceship and have set their own timings according to a 24-hour cycle working from ten to six.

Asked about the difference in environment inside and outside the space ship, Fincke said it was extremely hostile and cold outside but inside it is as comfortable as it can be with the temperature set at 24 degrees Celsius.

The quality of the air inside the spaceship is maintained by oxygen manufactured inside while carbon dioxide is recycled, said Fincke, who is also the commander of the current expedition 'Mission 18' of the ISS

Members of the spaceship eat normal food like hamburgers and sausages but they "are mostly packed food, prepared on ground but we do heat these sometimes", he said.

"Water on the spaceship is used just like back in the planet but we recycle both water and urine", Fincke answered to a student's query on water management aboard the spaceship.

He and two of his other associates inside the spaceship, however, cannot take bath due to zero gravity and they only swab themselves, besides wearing absorbent clothing.

They are also fortunate to see 16 sunrises and sets during the course of 24-hours as the spaceship completes 19 rotations during this period, each cycle taking 90 minutes.

Seasonal changes along with man-made and natural structure of earth are also visible from aboard the ship.

Presently, "we are observing winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in southern hemisphere and we can also observe large objects like the pyramids and Great Wall of China," the astronaut said.

Fincke and his colleagues relax on the spaceship with books and watching movies and exercise two hours daily on bicycles and treadmills.

Fincke, who is learning Assamese in space through flash cards, was asked, 'apuni Asomiya kobo parenaki' (can you speak Assamese) and he replied with aplomb, 'moi alop kobo paru" (I can speak a little), winning a loud round of applause from the audience.

Fincke is married to Renita Saikia, who also works at NASA, and her parents had left for USA several decades ago.

The ISS is the largest and most complex international scientific project in history and has six state-of-the-art laboratory where experiments on bio-medical sciences, quantum and fluid physics, astronomy and meteorology are currently on.

'Assam's son-in-law' carried a traditional 'gamocha' aboard the spaceship which would be signed by the other astronauts also and most likely presented to the state later.

The ground station of ARISS at north California coordinated the talk and the audience, comprising more than one thousand people, heard Fincke answer the students' queries over telephone connected to microphones.

"Communication from space will inspire young minds and such talks will help student to learn about life on board the ISS and become aware of the substantial benefits of human spaceflight and the exploration and discoveries that occur on space flight missions," FASS chairman Rajen Barua said.

This is for the first time that school children are talking live with an astronaut and it has indeed been possible with the help of Mike and NASA," said FASS secretary general Bidyananda Barkakoty.

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