Mark Shuttleworth - May 03, 2002: HAM Q&A Sessions - KwaZulu Natal Transcript and the Gauteng Transcript. There are only a few questions from the Chatsworth session as there was a problem connecting to Mark at the scheduled time. Fortunately the FAIS team, with help from their international ARRIS friends, managed to contact him briefly.
Xolani Biyela, Kwamgaga High School, Grade 8:
How was your take off from earth to space and what did it feel like?
“Xolani, It was an incredible experience. It was 5 to 8 minutes and a few seconds of sheer acceleration. The initial lift off was very smooth, and then as the rocket got lighter, the acceleration got stronger. As soon as we out into the atmosphere, the cover of the rocket blew off instantaneously, and we could see the earth and the sun, and the capsule was flooded with light. And then we had another 5 or 3 minutes of very fast acceleration as we went into an orbital state. I don’t think I’ll ever forget a second of this for the rest of my life.”
Surina Ramchander, Southlands Secondary School, Grade 9:
Is there something that you have learnt whilst in space that you did not already know, but have now discovered?
“ Surina, yes, I think I’ve learnt that we can all adapt in a very different environment.” (The remainder of the answer was very unclear. Starting to lose Mark already)
Is it true that the earth wobbles?
Lost contact with Mark
Itumeleng Maragele, Zitikeni Secondary School
Tell me about your first day on the rocket?
“Itumeleng, the first day was the most incredible day of my life. We woke up very early, and we had a lot of medical testing and check ups before the launch. Then we had a lot of rituals and tradition that we needed to do where we were staying in Kazakhstan so we worked very quickly though those and we also had a lot of last minute packing for the things we wanted to take with us. Then we rushed out to the place where we had to get suited up, and have to make sure our space suit didn’t have any leaks. Then we got onto the bus headed for the launch pad, where there were it seemed like 100 people gathered around the rocket, which was covered in ice crystals because it had liquid oxygen inside it. Then we were inside the capsule and we were about 2 and half hours inside the soyuz, which is the vehicle that carried us. The launch was about 8 minutes and it was the most incredible experience when we were about 84km’s high, we were outside the atmosphere, and suddenly we could see the world for the first time and after that the rocket rolled over and we go very fast horizontally. So 8 minutes after the launch, we were in weightlessness for the first time for the crew, and it was the most incredible experience. We then had a couple of days on the soyuz and prepared for docking. Since then, I’ve been in the ISS, joining the other 3 crew that lives here, and that’s 2 American and 1 Russian”
Peter Caswell, Chris J Botha Secondary School:
What kind of experiments are you going to conduct?
“Peter I’ve got four experiments up here from SA and I am also working on one from Russia. The 4 SA experiments are very exciting. The 1st one is a very challenging and very ambitious experiment, and no one has done anything like this one before. It comes from the university of stellenbosh, where we are taking embryos, as well as special cells called stem-cells into space for the very first time. We don’t know how they will develop, we just want to observe them and prepare them for the development ……………………
The next experiment is protein crystallization. Protein is a very important chemical that defines the make up of a human being or an animal. We've got very specific proteins from the HIV virus and from the human immune system. We are trying to cultivate crystals of these proteins to see if we could study the structure of these proteins and to see if we could design drugs that could minimize the impact of AIDS on SA and the world.
And then we are looking at muscle degradation. While in space astronauts experience a lot of muscle degradation, because we don’t use our muscles very much, such as we don’t walk around the same way as we do on earth. We also look at the ways energy burn in space, so we are sort of like guinea pigs in a tin can floating 400 km above earth.
Nontutuzelo Makhadi, Eqinisweni Secondary School, Grade 8
Is there day and night in space?
“It’s even better than day and night. We have 16 days in one earth day so we go around the world 16 times everyday. We are going very fast, we go around at about 30 000 km/h, so we break every speed limit on the ground. Because we go so fast, we go around the world faster than the world rotates and that means we see 16 sunrise and 16 sunsets everyday and I think that everyone of them are absolutely beautiful.
Natalie Basson, Riverlea Primary School, Grade 7
Are there water taps in space? How do you bath?
“Natalie that’s a great question. It’s a very interesting part of living in space here. You have to be very careful here, because liquid like water won’t float downhill here, so you cannot have a cup of water, because water won’t stay in the cup. It will fly out of the cup and float around in a big gulp. I hope to send some video down tomorrow, where you will actually see what that looks like in space, it’s really amazing. So, all the taps here are very special, you have to pressurize them and squeeze the water out and squeeze into a container like a plastic tube or into your mouth. If you are really adventurous you could squirt the water across the room and let the blob float across the room and hopefully you will catch it. So there’s very special taps up here to make sure we can drink but we don’t make a mess or cause a problem with all the complicated electronics up here.
Katlego Moagi, Ikaneng Primary School, Grade 7
How do you replenish your oxygen in space?
“Katlego, that’s a great question. We use water. Water is made up of 2 chemicals, which is oxygen and hydrogen. We use electricity, which we produce from solar panels, ‘cause we have so much sunlight, we use that electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen we don’t use on board, so we just send it off into space. The oxygen we store in tanks and that is used to keep the crew in an oxygen rich environment like the earth. Just before we arrive, the oxygen generator, called the electron broke down, so the crew on board has to do an emergency replacement of the electron. As I’m sitting here talking to you, I can see the broken unite of electron placed in the corner with the radio. It’s a big black machine with a lot of valves on it. We also have some chemical canisters, which is for emergency use to produce oxygen. If we had a real emergency, we could use those, but it will only last for a couple of hours.”
Jeffrey Dateling, Greenside High School, Grade 8
Does weightlessness have any advantages?
“It certainly does, if you like your feet on the ceiling, Jeffery. It is also very good for specialized scientific study of human body in ways we cannot study on earth, because we can isolate the various muscle activities. On earth we use all the muscle of your body just to move around, whereas in space we don’t use all of it. It’s also good for study the universe. Up here, we don’t have the atmosphere between outer space and us. …………. We are also doing experiments on effects of weightlessness, ………………
Shereen, Umghele Comprehensive School, Grade 9
Do you think it will be suitable for human beings to live there? If not, what can be changed to make it suitable for human habitation?
“The ISS is all about learning how to make the space suitable for human habitation, and we still have a long way to go. Having said that, it’s quite comfortable living up here. We have lots of food, we have magnificent view, we have more and more communication with the earth, and it’s not too bad living here. I wish every body could have the opportunity to experience this.
Matenane Marease, Emshukantambo High School, Grade 8
How long will it take South Africa to have its own expedition? How competent are we technologically?
“That’s a great question as well. I think it’s a question of will-power rather then technical competency. South Africa has always produce very exceptionally skilled technical people. This expedition is something that we are all very proud of and hopefully it will be something to build on. We’ve always produced exceptional scientists and engineers and hope that some of you can go on to more expeditions. There are already universities in SA that are looking into space for extension of their studies and research. Hopefully we can also anticipate international projects with the ISS, that would be very exciting.