A date with NASA astronaut

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: NASA astronaut Joe Allen shared with school children and space enthusiasts some of his memorable experiences during a space odyssey at Nehru Planetarium here earlier this week.

Dr. Allen has the distinction of being a mission specialist on STS-5 flight of Columbia space shuttle which completed 81 orbits of the Earth in 122 hours in November 1982.

Asked how stars appear from space, Dr. Allen said they look strikingly bright and don't twinkle unlike what we are used to seeing as they are above the atmosphere.

He answered questions on the rigours of astronaut training, how the body adapts when one returns to earth and how one should pursue science to venture into these careers.

During his interaction with the school children, Dr. Allen showed photographs and slides of his space odyssey. Slides with astronauts sleeping on the ceiling in sleeping bags and others performing their work in topsy-turvy positions illustrated the concept of floating in the “no gravity” situation. He talked about how a space shuttle took 8.5 minutes to get to space.

Dr. Allen encouraged students to learn as much as they can and also enjoy their field of specialisation. He talked about the future of space programme with the space shuttles and of the importance of space exploration for humans. Nehru Planetarium director Dr. Rathnasree guided him round the Planetarium. Members of Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators had a separate interactive session with him.