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, Starley, 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, on one mission American astronauts 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 the Davis School District attended the event, held at Davis High School auditorium. Space study is part of the curriculum for those two grades, said Trease.
There were close to 5,000 kids attending the event, she said.
Before becoming an astronaut, Halsell was an engineer and a fighter pilot. He told the students that it takes extraordinary technical skills to fly in space.
Dressed in his blue astronaut uniform, Halsell showed a film of one of his trips to the space station and explained it to the students. He told 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, 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,” said Halsell about the closing of the U.S. space program.
One young student asked Halsell if he was scared on his first flight, and Halsell admitted he was a little bit scared but 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 stood for.
Another student asked how big the space station is. The answer, said Halsell, the size of a football field.
Finally, brave teacher from Bountiful Elementary asked the question on may students’ mind: 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 told the students to find something they enjoy and are passionate about as a career.
Halsell said he was on his way to see the launch of Shuttle Endeavor, scheduled for launch on Friday. Mark Kelly, the husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, who suffered gunshot wounds in an incident earlier this year, is at command.