Students tour space station in Carson

Students from Educare Academy, a Carson City private school, took a virtual tour Thursday of the International Space Station at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada.

"It's cool," said third-grader Randy Compos. "I've always liked space."

The presentation was the seventh annual teleconference sponsored by NASA to raise student awareness of careers in math and science and the collaboration between international scientists, engineers and astronauts.

It was broadcast live over the Internet with hosts Philip West, aerospace engineer, and Kathryn Clark, senior scientist for the International Space Station.

Gale Thomssen, education coordinator for the museum, said the museum directors decided to broadcast the teleconference after receiving information about it in the mail.

"It looked fascinating," she said. "It's a wonderful chance for the children to interact and really learn."

The conference focused mainly on the space station expected to be completed by 2003.

Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar explained science experiments that are being conducted on the space station where gravity is not a variable.

"It's an outpost that we cannot replicate on the Earth," she said.

She said the agency is working on a method to grow edible food in space.

West took the students on a tour of the bathroom, where he demonstrated how he had to belt himself to the toilet and turn on the vacuum system.

Sixth-grader Selah Arnold said she liked his demonstration.

"I thought it was cool because the toilets had a little suction thing," she said. However, she said she would not like to have to use them.

"I wouldn't want to because it's like being sucked down into a tube and you have to wear seat belts to go to the bathroom," she said.

West explained that all liquid, including bath water and urine, is processed and recycled into drinking water.

Sarah Bitzer, 11, was not impressed.

"When someone goes to the bathroom and you're going to drink it again, that sounds really gross," she said.

Thomssen told the students of a program in Carson City that uses recycled water to irrigate the Eagle Valley Golf Course.

"When you live in a desert like us, water is our most valuable resource," Thomssen said. "It's not exactly safe enough to drink yet but it is absolutely wonderful for the golf course," she said.

The space station will house a crew up to seven. It will be 110 meters by 88 meters, almost the size of two football fields, and will weigh about 470 tons.

Part of the program was dedicated to questions from viewers across the nation.

Students at the museum tried to call but could not get through. Instead, they wrote a list of questions and e-mailed them to the hosts.

Ashley Bacon, an 11-year-old fifth-grader, said formulating the questions was her favorite part of the program.

She said her favorite question was written by a classmate, "Can you have a baby in space?"

Thomssen said she expects a reply from NASA and will make sure the students receive the answers.

Barbra Jones, language arts and social studies teacher for grades three through six, said she wanted her students to be involved in the program so they could understand more about space and the possibilities it has to offer.

"I thought it would be a good experience for them to see the possibilities for our future," she said.


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