Shuttle pilot shows pupils outer space


Columbia Academy students got a lesson Friday morning that was out of this world -- from a teacher who's been there.

Space shuttle pilot Steve Oswald showed the 200 youngsters a videotape that featured shuttle launches and what life is like in space.

Mr. Oswald's visit was arranged by student John Hegg's mother, Sue Hegg, a lieutenant commander who serves with the pilot in the Naval Space Command Reserve.

"There's lots of different kinds of people who are astronauts," Mr. Oswald said, noting the women and minorities among the 200 American astronauts who have been in space.

The videotape showed some of the earlier attempts Americans made at flight, including a winged man. It also showed some of the first rockets and the space shuttle.

"Here's how we get to space now. We use these big rockets to get us off the ground," Mr. Oswald said, pointing out rockets on the screen.

The children, who were in prekindergarten through third grade, laughed at some of the tricks astronauts did in their weightless environment.

"This is a different way to eat a banana," Mr. Oswald said when the video showed a half-peeled banana spiraling in air toward an astronaut's mouth.

"Can you guess what this is?" Mr. Oswald asked, referring to a small brown bubble of apple juice that floated through space.

The children were most impressed with weightlessness.

"I liked it when they went up in space, and they were jumping on the moon," said Whitney Wheeler, a kindergartner.

"It was really funny when they were eating the M&Ms;," her classmate, Anna Prokop, said, referring to a scene in which the crew looked like fish gulping the floating candies.

Mr. Oswald explained that while in space, astronauts often launch or repair satellites that "make the world a smaller place" or collect data for research on earth.

"It's really black in space, but when you look at the Earth you can see the white clouds and the blue water and different parts. . . . Some of it's brown and some of it's green and some of it's red. It's beautiful."

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