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You sure couldn’t hide those grins on television from the Astronaut Candidate Class of 2013 when the call came from the International Space Station.
NASA’s latest recruits were at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. at an event today (Thursday) for students. Amid the many youngster questions to Expedition 38 astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, astronaut candidate Jessica Meir managed one of her own: was the wait worth it?
Hovering in front of the camera, four-time flyer Mastracchio vigorously shook his hand “no” to laughter from the audience. Hopkins answered her more seriously: “It is definitely worth it. It is the most amazing experience I think you can ever have. Floating is just truly incredible; it just never gets old.”
Minutes later, Hopkins demonstrated a “stupid astronaut trick”: doing Road Runner-style sprinting in place in mid-air. The laughing crew signed off — “So they’re floating off now?” asked event moderator and veteran astronaut Leland Melvin — and the new class had the chance to answer questions of their own.
While the class expressed effusive delight at being astronauts — they were hired last year, so the feeling is quite new to them — Meir said that there was some sadness at leaving the careers they had before. As a recent article in Air&Space Smithsonian pointed out, this class will have several years to wait for a seat into space because there aren’t robust shuttle crews of seven people going up several times a year any more. The Soyuz only carries three people at a time, and there are fewer missions that last for a longer time.
There also is some ambiguity about where the astronauts will go. The International Space Station has been extended until at least 2024, but astronaut candidate Anne McClain added today that an asteroid or Mars are other things being considered for their class. “This class is such an exciting time to be at NASA,” she said.
Other questions asked of the class at the event include who is going to go in space first, and from a wee future astronaut, which planet they’d prefer to go to. You can watch the whole broadcast on the link above.