KAYSVILLE -- Do astronauts eat Astronaut Ice Cream in space?
That was a question sixth-grade student Aaron Starley has pondered for a long time.
On Wednesday, Aaron, one of several Davis County students chosen to ask former astronaut Jim Halsell Jr. a question during a special assembly for Space Week, posed his query.
"All of my life, I have seen it (Astronaut Ice Cream), and I've wondered if astronauts really do eat that," Aaron said.
Halsell, a veteran of more than 1,250 hours in space, had the answer.
He explained that, although astronauts do not eat that type of ice cream, American astronauts during one mission took ice cream in a freezer to the International Space Station as a surprise for the Russian astronauts who were manning the station.
This is the 11th year for Space Week, which is coordinated by Utah Space Week Director Donna Trease.
Third- and sixth-grade students from throughout Davis School District attended the event, held in the Davis High School auditorium.
Space study is part of the curriculum for those two grades, Trease said.
Close to 5,000 kids attended the event, she said.
Before becoming an astronaut, Halsell was an engineer and a fighter pilot. He told the students it takes extraordinary technical skills to fly in space.
Dressed in his blue astronaut's uniform, Halsell showed a film of one of his trips to the space station and explained it to the students. He told them how fast the shuttle travels and the temperatures on the outside of the station.
"Working and living in zero-gravity is fun," he said, "but it is not all glamour."
There are things everyone on the space station must do, just like there are here on Earth. They exercise daily, and they eat, clean house and work at the station.
The building of the space station began in 1998, and it was completed earlier this year, he said.
"It is going to be a little sad," Halsell said regarding the end of the U.S. space shuttle program.
One young student asked Halsell if he was scared on his first flight, and Halsell admitted he was -- a little bit -- but that all of those feelings went away quickly.
Another student asked if the astronauts took toys with them. Another asked about the different colored space suits, and yet another asked what NASA stands for.
One question was how big the space station is. Halsell's answer: the size of a football field.
Finally, a brave teacher from Bountiful Elementary School asked the question on many students' minds: How do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?
"The body works the same way in space; you have to go to the bathroom. You actually take a class with a space potty," Halsell explained to a roar of laughter from the students.
Halsell talked about how astronauts had to use a seat belt on the toilet and turn on a fan before they went. He explained a series of steps to take before actually going, because there is no gravity in space.
"You want engineers to figure out what's going to happen," he said. "The fan is to pull the waste away from the body."
Halsell encouraged the students to find something they enjoy and are passionate about when choosing a career.
He said he was on his way to see the launch of space shuttle Endeavour, scheduled to launch Friday.
Mark Kelly, the husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered gunshot wounds in an incident earlier this year, will command the shuttle.