LIVE – Jeremy Hansen answers questions from Canadian kids on space and self-isolation

published on July 2, 2020

Greetings everyone I’m Jeremy Hansen, an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency

And I’m just happy to spend a little bit of time with some fellow space enthusiasts

out there today

Talking a little bit about the challenge we’re going through right now as a planet,

a little bit about space, and a little bit about, you know, what my family and I are,

are doing during this difficult time

I’ve been self-isolated here at, at our home in Houston now for the past three weeks,

just trying to stay healthy, make sure we’re not part of the problem,

and we’re ready to help and provide solutions in any way that we can

And I know for my wife and my three kids and I, it’s a challenge to adapt to this,

this change in our lifestyle

We’re used to having a lot more freedom,

and now we’re having to be creative about the things we do

and how we use our time and that we don’t fall into, into traps that,

you know, start to make us unhappy and sad,

and we try to make the most of a situation we’re in

And I also just wanted to say, I know some of you, it must be,

you know, going through even greater challenges,

maybe with loved ones or people that are ill, my heart just goes out to you during this time

And my sense is, if we look at humanity, we always overcome great struggle

when we work together

And that’s my, my sense on this, is that we will continue to create ways

to come together and overcome these challenges that are upon the entire planet

And that’s really what we do in space

We take on really great challenges,

we bring an international team of people together to accomplish

some of the most incredible things humans have ever done

and that’s what I think we’ll do in this situation as well

So, Camille (ph) is going to be helping me from the Space Agency

to take some of your questions online, but we already took some of the questions

from social media so I could just dive right into it

So, go ahead and ask your questions but, in the meantime, I’m going to answer a few

that I already have here

Adam, he’s 12 years old, he asked, what do you do during your confinement?

And do you have any tips to make it easier for my family and I?

And so, Adam, what I’d tell you is,

I’m going to, I’m going to bring this up a few times today,

I would call it adapting and then being creative

And this is what astronauts need to do when we face confinement

and new challenging situations, and it’s really what you need to do

as a family to chase, face these challenges as well

So, the first thing is to realize that you can adapt, you can change,

and you can make the most of any situation

And then the second thing is to be creative about the things you do,

maybe it’s not the same but maybe it can be even better than it was before

So, for, for me and my family, some of the things have stayed the same, I still work,

I still work online, remotely

My, my children, they’re 15, 13 and 13, they, they still go to school,

they just do it remotely on their computer, so that looks the same

Something that we always did before but that’s really important is physical activity

So, we don’t want to just be sitting around in our house all day, we want to be active

So, if it’s a day that we can go outside safely, then,

then we try to get outside every day and do something physical

If not, we can do exercise or physical activity or just a game of tag in the house

So, we have to adapt, and we have to be creative

The Canadian Space Agency has put a whole lot of fun activities online,

they’re on our website

If you’re interested in that, you can learn about space

and help think about how we’re going to solve some big problems in the future

So, those are just a few ideas

Marisole (ph) from Gatineau, 10 years old, asked,

I enjoy being with my friends

Yeah, don’t we all?

How do you handle not seeing your friends during these long weeks without being sad?

Well, the first thing I would say to you, Marisole (ph) is we’re all sad sometimes,

and that’s very, very normal

And I’d be surprised if you weren’t sad, because of this situation, sometimes

And that’s okay When you’re sad, an important thing to do is to what we do

in the Astronaut Corps and that’s to talk to other people, tell other people

Don’t try to do it all by yourself

Maybe talk to family, maybe talk to your friends,

and tell them that you’re feeling sad and that you’re missing them

They’re probably feeling sad too and they’d love to hear that

Now, you may not be able to do the things you’re used to do with your friends right now,

but maybe you can do some other things Maybe you can do what I said before,

you can adapt by being creative

And just brainstorm with your friends, hey, what could we do together to feel like we are,

we’re doing something as a team? I hope that helps

Eloise is 14 years old and she asked, what are the similarities between isolation

for an analogue mission like Neemo and the isolation we live in right now?

I’m just going to put a picture here;

I’m going to share my screen so you can see what I’m talking about with Neemo

Neemo is like this really amazing challenge that we get to take on as astronauts

Hopefully, you can see that, where we get to live under water,

on the ocean floor as a team in this habitat

It’s kind of like living in a school bus

This is what it looks like That’s the outside

Here’s what it looks like inside

And there’s six beds in there

And we went down there as a team Now, we were only down there for about a week

When we lived down there, we were simulating a mission like to Mars or on the moon

And what we would, were able to do is we could go outside on these simulated space walks,

so you put on your special helmet and you go out the floor of the habitat,

this is going out into the ocean, and then you could go out and do experiments

as if we’re on the surface of Mars

And so, what’s neat about that experience is that we’re trapped in this tin can

as a team of people for about seven days

There’s a lot of challenges because it’s very risky living on the ocean floor,

there’s a lot of physiological things that can happen to your body

if you don’t manage them correctly

You, you can’t actually safely return to the surface of the ocean

without decompressing first, for example

But on top of that, you’re trapped in a very small space with five other people for seven days

You basically have to like squeeze past each other,

you’re always in each other’s space, you don’t have any privacy at all

And the way we adapt to that, or the way we deal with it is we adapt

by just accepting the situation we’re in, realizing that this is an amazing opportunity

and by working together and just communicating honestly with each other,

we were able to turn it into this incredible experience where, I mean,

I saw ocean life like I’ve never seen it before, I got to see that fish have habits,

and it was just a really rich experience for me working together as a team

So, I would say the similarities are the fact that you have to change, you have to adapt

It’s not the same but you can make something amazing out of it

Great So, Emily, 9 years old asked if the COVID-19 virus could survive in space

And the answer is, yes

The virus could travel to the space station

For example, with the astronauts inside their pressurized rocket,

they get to the space station

and they could survive there because it’s really inside the space station,

it’s just like it is here in my house

It’s one atmosphere pressure, it’s, we have the same air pressure, for example

We have oxygen, all those same things

The one thing that might be kind of tough on the virus is the higher radiation levels in space,

and that is not good for the human body and it’s also not good for viruses

But the answer is it could survive on the space station

Now the big question is what can survive outside the space station in the vacuum of space

If it was protected from the radiation of space, viruses can be freezed (sic) and thawed

We don’t really know what exactly can survive outside the space station,

but we have some clues that maybe stuff can

And that’s a really interesting area of science for the future

From Hovan (ph), can you catch a virus while in space?

So, here’s a picture of the International Space Station,

and the answer is yes, you can

In fact, we have to do something very similar to what we’re all doing right now,

is we have to self-isolate or quarantine ourselves for 14 days before we go to space

because we don’t want the viruses to hitch a ride in our bodies

to the International Space Station and infect ourselves, plus the other astronauts up there

So, we’re actually launching a crew to the space station later this week

and they’ve been in self-quarantine for a while,

especially, we’re being especially cautious right now with COVID-19

because there’s a lot we don’t know about it yet

And they’ve had to be quarantined to make sure they don’t take the virus to outer space

Let’s see, do we do science on the space station to help with things like vaccines

for diseases? And that question came from Janelle, who’s 11 years old

Here’s a picture of the rocket, of how those people are going to get to the space station

this week And that’s how David, my friend, got to the space station last year,

and this is him doing science on board the International Space Station,

and the answer is, yes

We have been trying to figure out how to use the International Space Station

to help us with things like vaccines, and there’s been some interesting research done already

We don’t have all the answers but there’s something interesting that happens to viruses

in space and that is they get a little bit stronger and tougher in some ways,

which is worse for human beings

And so, but by examining them on earth and then looking at how they get stronger

and tougher in space and where those areas are,

it can help us figure out where their weaknesses are on planet earth

and help us in the development of vaccines in the future

How do astronauts handle their mental health during training and while in space,

and what kind of support is available to them?

And that came from Emily, 15 years old

And the answer to your question, Emily, is teamwork

Just like you’re going through challenges being isolated right now,

astronauts go through challenges when they go to space

But the important thing we teach each other as we’re getting ready to go on a big mission

is that we don’t do anything alone, we always do it as a team

We rely on another to, to pick up for our individual weaknesses

and this makes the team able to accomplish incredible things

This is kind of a cool picture where we had two Canadians in space,

you’ve got Dr Bob Thirsk in the bottom left, in the middle

and then our Governor General, Julie Payette beside him So, it’s a neat photo

And there’s representation from all of the space agencies

that help make the international space station possible

And so, for astronauts, it starts with the team that they’re with in space,

and that’s the team that you have right now isolated in your home

But then we have other support for us, so like,

for example this was something I worked on recently where we went out

to do some space walks to fix something outside the space station

and they were talking to us on the ground, in Mission Control

So, on the one side of your picture, you have Emily, she’s the flight director,

Rickie is another astronaut and then myself, and we were part of that mission control team

that was helping those astronauts accomplish their tasks

And so, that’s how astronauts do it, they do it by working as a team

Alright, let’s see, we’ve got two more and then I’ll go to the live questions

Rowan, seven years old, would like to know why we can breathe on earth but not in space

So, let me zip forward to this photo

So, if you look here, Rowan, you can see a little faint green line about the surface of the earth,

and that is the bubble of air that the earth is able to maintain around our planet

And it’s gravity that holds that bubble of air down to the surface so that you and I can breathe

But once you get above that bubble, you can no longer breathe

So, once you’re in space, you have to be in a spaceship

or a space station or a space suit if you want to be able to breathe

And actually, as you just go up in the atmosphere, if you climb Mount Everest,

it gets harder and harder to breathe because you’re getting higher

If you fly really high in an airplane and you were to open the door,

you wouldn’t be able to breathe there either

You would actually get hypoxic which means a lack of oxygen

So, it’s really, it’s amazing that our planet is able to maintain this small atmosphere for us

to survive

Alright, and then finally, this question is related, Emmett, four years old,

would like to know why we have to wear a space suit?

So, here’s my colleague, David Saint-Jacques who’s going to be doing the same thing

I’m doing right now, in French, right after this, at about 14:15 EST

This is him in his space suit This is what a space suit looks like, the whole thing

This is me training and look (ph) cool practising in it

And the reason we have to wear them is for the exact same thing,

is there is no air pressure in space for us to be able to breathe

And so, the space suit is like a big balloon that keeps air pressure inside,

so that the astronauts can survive while they’re doing jobs

outside the International Space Station

So, I’m going to stop sharing my screen

I’m going to go to the chat and let’s see if we have any questions

Alright, the first one is, says, I’m Paige,

I’m eight and a half (laughing) sorry, you’re eight and a half and my question is

can you grow food in space? And we absolutely can In fact,

we’re really excited about the promise of learning to grow food in space

We’re already doing it on the International Space Station right now,

just some very limited experiments

The astronauts, like lettuce for example, we’ve been able to grow,

we’ve been able to grow and eat lettuce in space

The Canadian Space Agency along with some other government partners right now

is looking at using greenhouses in the Canadian Arctic to figure out how to grow food there

where we have, you know, six months of mostly darkness and then six months

of mostly light So, how can we grow food in the Canadian Arctic efficiently,

without using a lot of fossil fuels for example to support it with lights,

and can we take that technology, use it to feed Canadians in remote communities,

but also learn from it and then take it to feed human beings on the moon

and Mars in the future

So, that’s some really neat work we’re doing on food right now

Alright, this one, this question is from Victor and Beatrice, age nine and 11, well,

Victor, I think you’re 11 and Beatrice, nine

What physical activities astronauts, can astronauts do in zero gravity?

Oh, so, actually, so, exercise, like I was saying before, is super important

that we stay in shape

So, if we were just in the space station floating around for six months,

we, we would lose a whole bunch of muscle mass,

our bones would get very weak, they might actually break very easily

when we returned to planet earth

So, we have to exercise in space, and so, we use three main devices

We have a treadmill for running, and we use bungee cords, basically,

to pull us down on the treadmill and simulate gravity

We have a bike and that works pretty much like it would work on earth,

it’s just a stationary bike, you clip in your feet to the pedals

and, and you go ahead, and you pedal your bike

And then the third thing, we have this device we call ARED,

but it allows us to simulate weightlifting in space

and this does really great job of keeping astronauts healthy

So, we can do like bench press, we can do squats where we put the bar on our back

and go up and down with our legs, we can do deadlifts, curls,

we can do a whole bunch of exercises with that that simulates weightlifting here on the planet

And because of that, astronauts are coming back to earth in much better condition

than they used to after a long mission

Alright, so, from Dane and Turiss (ph),

have you ever felt claustrophobic?

You know, everybody is different, everyone has different challenges,

and I have to say, claustrophobia is not one of mine

I’ve kind of always liked small spaces

I remember when I was a child, I grew up on a farm,

we had a barn and I used to make tunnels that were out of bales of, of straw

that were just big enough for my friends and I to squeeze through

And I was really comfortable being in small spaces, even when I was a kid

And so, they don’t really bother me today

However, for example, being on the space station, in a tin can for six months is,

is not so much a thing of claustrophobia but it’s about, kind of, being cooped up,

not being able to go outside when you want to go outside, having to change your habits

And that’s kind of what we’re all going through right now,

with this self-isolation at home is we’re having to change what we do

so that we can continue to feel good about ourselves,

continue to have purpose and to feel like we’re doing something important

and fun and exciting every single day

Alright, let’s see What do we have here,

Ryan, age 10, is wondering if there’s a plan in the future to have an astronaut

to go to Mars to attempt to live there?

So, Ryan, I would tell you, absolutely there is

This is one of our goals is to send human beings to Mars

We have, we have a broad vision that eventually our species

will be a multi-planetary species, which means we’ll be able to survive here on earth,

we’ll take care of our planet earth and we’ll be able to live here a long time,

but we’ll also learn how to live on other planetary bodies like the moon and Mars

And so, I think it’s going to be, you know, many more years before we go to Mars,

but I think I will get to see humans walk on Mars in my lifetime

And maybe that will be you if you’re interested, maybe you would like to take a journey to Mars

In fact, Canada, just last year, joined NASA and now we’re international partners

in going back to the moon

We are, first thing we’re going to do is build this gateway around the moon

that is basically just that, is meant to open up the solar system,

set up a reusable transportation network to go to the moon,

learn how to live there and eventually go on to Mars

So, some really exciting things we’re working on right now

And what I would tell young Canadians today is things are changing rapidly in space,

and there is going to be a lot of jobs of the future that are in space

And as a Canadian, you’re going to have opportunity to work on some

of these amazing things we’re doing

And everything we do in space, we do with an eye of,

hey, what can we learn in space that can help us here, understand ourselves, our planet,

how to take care of it and how to have better lives on our planet

So, some really exciting work If that interests you,

we’d love to have you on our team in the future

Alright, from Santiago, age 12,

when I am older, what should I do to become an astronaut?

This will be our last question; we only have 20 minutes today

But I wouldn’t wait until you’re older,

I would start doing it now

And so, basically, the most important thing, if there’s something that you want,

then, then set that goal

And do what you just did, Santiago,

share that goal, tell other people about it and they will give you advice

and help you achieve that goal

Now, some of you might know that you want to be an astronaut today

and a lot of the rest of you don’t necessarily know what you want to do and that’s okay

But just set small goals in your life, tell people about them,

start working on them today

And I would tell you, Santiago, the big thing, you’re already doing some of them,

you need to follow through with academics,

so do your best at school,

plan to get a university degree,

go on to an advance degree, so you know how to learn

And I would say the next thing is to challenge yourself,

you know, try new things, go out there

Like for me, it was the Air Cadet Program in Canada

that really challenged me as a young Canadian

But for you, it could be some other program eventually

that you’re able to participate in, there’s school sports or anything like that,

or hobbies that you can start doing today

And finally, probably the most important thing that you can start practising today

to be an astronaut is teamwork

You can start doing that today in your own household,

start really trying to figure out how you can help other people in your house,

what you can do for them today

And you’ll see, when you do something positive for other people,

they’re going to do something positive for you right back

And that’s a really important, a really important thing

that we look for when we’re recruiting astronauts is how well do they work with others

and do they have empathy, and do they want to take care of other people on their team

So, again, if you’re looking for things to do, check out the Canadian Space Agency website

Thank you so much for spending some time with me today

If this was useful, please let us know David’s going to do it again in just about 25 minutes,

so 14:15 EST in French

But if you like this and this brings value, I’d love to do it again

I know Josh and Jenny are totally excited to help out any way they can,

and we’ll set up (ph) one of these up again and answer some more of your questions

I’m really wishing you all the best and remind you one last time,

we get through this by doing things together,

by working as a team, by holding hands internationally,

just like we do on board the International Space Station,

and we can accomplish some amazing things

Wishing you all the very, very best Take care So long

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