Last Wednesday, a sold out audience of 500+ people at the Greenwood Theatre, King’s College London were lucky enough to be part of a live video conference and Q&A with Astronaut Scott Kelly, from aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The momentous evening was hosted by record-breaking Astronaut Mike Foale, along with director and founder of ISSET, Chris Barber and Professor of Human & Applied Physiology at King’s College, London, Steve Harridge. The event was held by ISSET in partnership with Pint of Science and took place during our week long ‘Mission Discovery‘ Space & STEM programme.
Chris and Steve opened the night by touching briefly on Chris’ time spent with Scott prior to his launch in March earlier this year. Before long, the nod was given by Houston Mission Control to begin the video link up with the ISS. Scott appeared on screen evoking a roaring applause, but the audience were left hanging in suspense in the following moments as there was no reaction or response from him. Houston, unfortunately, had a problem.
We knew that Scott would be unable to see us on the ISS, but there seemed to be a fault with the sound. After some cutting silence, Scott reached for a second mic and, much to everyones relief, his voice was beamed through to the theatre, receiving an even greater applause. We had made contact with the Space Station. The video conference was now underway and it was a very exciting realisation.
Director of ISSET Chris Barber asked Scott about a conspiracy theory that his twin brother Mark Kelly is actually on the ISS and not him, to which he replied:
“Well Chris…I’m pretty sure it’s me.”
The humour continued throughout the talk. When answering a question about food taste in space, Chris added that Mike Foale had been for a nice dinner earlier that evening, which produced a big smile on Scott’s face.
Many great questions were asked during the evening, but perhaps the most poignant of all was “Has being in space changed your perception of life on Earth?” Scott answered that two things come to mind:
“One that the Earth doesn’t look all that big. There are no political borders that you can see, so it makes it seem like everyone’s kind of a citizen of one planet – planet Earth, versus any particular country. The second thing is that the atmosphere that keeps us alive is actually very thin and should be protected.
The link-up ended in style with Scott somersaulting backwards in the weightless microgravity environment to masses of applause. It was a truly memorable evening for all.
Scott is spending one year in space on the International Space Station. He and Russian astronaut Mikhail Korniyenko have been there since 27 March 2015 and the goal of the year-long expedition aboard the orbiting laboratory is to understand better how the human body reacts and adapts to the harsh environment of space.
You can watch the full video conference below: