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Curt Brown and
John Glenn
IMAGE: Commander Curt Brown, left, and Payload Specialist John Glenn
STS-95 Commander Curt Brown, left, and Payload Specialist John Glenn talk with students on Earth during a live event.
Inflight Events
*Glenn's NASA 40th Anniversary Message
*U.S. News Conference
*Educational Event

Inflight Event:
STS-95 Educational Downlink

Saturday, October 31, 1998

Event participants: STS-95 Commander Curt Brown and Payload Specialist John Glenn; Center of Science and Industry's Dr. Kathryn Sullivan and students; Newseum's Peter Prichard and students; John Glenn High School's Marge Lehke and students.

Center of Science and Industry

Senator Glenn, were you more nervous being the first American to orbit the Earth or to be the oldest man ever in space? -- Sarah Ravely, Holleh Moheimani and Janara Walker of Whetstone High School

Glenn: Well, I think they are both great things to participate in and I had a wonderful time the first time. I think I was probably more nervous back in those days because we did not know much about spaceflight in those days; we were sort of feeling our way and finding out what would happen to the human body in space and now we are putting the whole thing to work for everybody up here so I think I was a little more nervous the first time.

Commander Brown, how fast can the spaceship go? -- Jessica Davis, Amber Whitney, Laura Stereff and Gloria Minard of Delta Middle School

Brown: Well, it can go pretty fast; actually as we lifted off, we had it wide open and it kept accelerating until it ran out of gas; but right now we are traveling about 17,500 miles per hour; to put it in terms - if you were five miles away from something, every second you would travel you would travel that five miles. So, if it were five miles to get to school, in one second you would be there.

Senator Glenn, how has technology advanced since Friendship 7? -- Jeremy Fry, DJ Danhauer, Kristopher Bechtel and Brock Burkholder of Delta Middle School

Glenn: Well, it is hardly even comparable because it has advanced so much, and we are learning so much. We point out all the time that it is a benefit to people right there on Earth to all the things we are learning. The science is not just learning how to do this, how to get into space. Out of the 83 different research experiments we have on board on this particular flight and they are designed for a whole bunch of different things on the body and medical things and material matters and new medicines that are being experimented with and a whole bunch of things that benefit everybody right there. So it has changed a great deal since way back in those days in '62.

Commander Brown, when blasting off, do you actually feel the inertia? Do you feel like we often see on TV when the faces are distorted? -- Mubarak Abdurraqib, David Tynan and Keith Smith of Whetstone High School

Brown: Well, first of all, we astronauts, we don't really refer to it as blasting off because that sounds pretty uncontrollable. During the launch we call it launching; during the launch you don't really have the distortion on your faces, that is more for the movies, I think. But we do feel the acceleration of the Orbiter, it is a very amazing vehicle; we jump off the launch pad and accelerate right up to 2-1/2 G's which means you would weight 2-1/2 times what you weight here on Earth. By the time we get up to orbital speed, we're up to around 3 G's which means if you weighed 100 pounds on the ground, you would weigh 300 pounds during that ascent, so we do feel the G's at acceleration, but it doesn't distort our face or anything.

Senator Glenn, would microgravity lessen the effects of certain types of joint pain? -- Scott Gordon, Jack Gaynor, Jordon Given and Jared Bruner of Delta Middle School

Glenn: I think it would because when you no longer have the same kind of pressure on those joints quite a lot of pain should be much lessened. You know we are studying a lot of things up here trying to - now one of the experiments I started out on yesterday was on OSTEO; it is an experiment that looks into bone structure and so on. We hope to learn a lot that will benefit a lot of people right on Earth.

Senator Glenn, do you feel younger when you are in space? -- Jeff Butz, Matt Lewis, Dawn VanDyke and Jessica Burger of Delta Middle School

Glenn: (laughs) I guess I feel young all the time. That is the reason I volunteered to come up here. But it is a great place up here and I am having a great time and of course, I am the oldest on the trip here. But we are getting along fine and I guess it is an advantage up here for older folks because in zero G you can move around much more easily. I have been bumping my head a lot on things as I float around here, but that is all right, that is par for the course up here. It is a great thing; we just came over Florida a few minutes ago here and looking down on that and all the Bahama Islands just laid out like on a map is just absolutely beautiful, so that is enough to keep you young up here if you were not when you got here.

Senator Glenn, is it difficult to eat and swallow food? -- Sarin Chhevy and Alysia Stevenson of Briggs High School

Glenn: Difficult to eat and swallow food? No, in fact back in 1962 that is one of the things that the people thought might be very difficult and I was to eat some food on that flight just to see if I could swallow and now we have all kinds of food. I think there are 42 kinds of food and drinks we have here. Each person can pick their own menu coming up here. It is quite easy to swallow, but you have to be quite careful you don't let the food get loose or it floats all over the place. Yesterday I was eating a little bit of oatmeal for breakfast and some of it got loose and instead of falling down on my chest as it would have on Earth, it came up and stuck right in the middle of my glasses. So, you have to learn how to eat and drink a little differently up here and don't let things get loose or they will float all over the place.

Commander Brown, how did you get picked to be commander? -- Avoka Uk, Anthony Kosky and Marcus Harris of Briggs High School

Brown: That is probably a really good question. I am not sure how to answer that. But when you get assigned to a space mission, our bosses are the ones who get together and decide who will be assigned to that mission. But I am not sure how I got assigned here. I think any one in the office, any commander in the office, would have been able to take 95 and I suppose I was just the lucky one. It was my turn.

Senator Glenn, do you think space travel will have a positive effect on people with osteoporosis or other degenerative diseases? -- Binh Nguyen, Edwayne Howard, T.J. Seabrooks of Columbus Alternative High School, Brookhaven High School and Columbus Academic High School

Glenn: Yes, I think we can learn a lot about these diseases, and I really do. We are just doing some experiments on that now. I mentioned OSTEO, the experiment we are dealing with here a few minutes ago that shows how different cells combine or break down and I think that can have a possible very big effect on medical experiments into the future. I'll comment on Curt's last comment on why he was picked also. This is his 5th flight you know, so he is one of the most experienced astronauts down there and I am just glad to be riding with him.

Commander Brown, would a wound heal faster in space? -- Robin Cardwell, Amanda Wentzel and Edward Shoulders of Clinton Middle School

Brown: Actually, I am not sure anyone knows the answer to that. Your body undergoes a number of changes when you get into the weightlessness environment up here in space and that is one of the things we are studying on 95 is how the body changes and how your different systems are affected. For instance your immune system that keeps you healthy and fights off all the diseases that try to attack you, up in space that changes. Actually it gets a little weaker. We are not sure why, but we are actually studying that here on 95.

Senator Glenn, does food taste differently up in space? -- Candice Waddell and Jason Hormann of Centennial High School

Glenn: You know, it has not tasted differently to me, although some of the people have talked about after you are in space for a while your body tends to adapt somewhat and food tastes much more bland. So there is a tendency to spice it up a little bit up here in space. But I have not run into that yet. We've had a number of meals since we came up here, and everything has tasted pretty much very good to me so far. I don't think I have had any weakening in my taste buds at all.

Commander Brown, how does space affect the digestive system? -- Mike Tomolillo and Philip Slater of Mifflin Middle School

Brown: Well, how does food affect your digestive system? I suppose to say that is when you get up here in space and you go into the weightlessness environment, your body is not sure what really just happened to it. So your stomach, intestines, and that stuff kind of shuts down for a few hours to figure out what is going on and during that timeframe your body is not doing much with your food. After your body figures out that it can handle the new environment, everything cranks back up and your food, stomach and intestines and all start working like normal. As John mentioned earlier, sometimes folks say food tastes a little differently. The one thing we do know is the absorption of that food into your body is a little bit different up here. If we take medication, we are not sure how that medication is going to be absorbed. So again, that is one of the things we are studying is that when you do take medication will the appropriate dosage get into your system or will it not be absorbed. And then do you need to take more medicine? So those are the things we don't really know yet, but we are definitely learning more about.

Senator Glenn, does your family support you going back into space? -- Becky Tanner, Danielle Pacey, Lindsey McCulloch and Erin Brehm of Delta Middle School

Glenn: Yes, although I must say my wife, Annie, was a little bit dubious about the whole project when we were starting out. But as she sat in on some of the classes and learned more about what we were trying to do, the experiments trying to run, and the benefit they will be to everybody on Earth, why she became very enthusiastic about this, particularly my part. You know we have some 34 million Americans that are over 65 right now and that is due to go up to about 100 million over the next 50 years. The same thing is going on all over the world; it has been called "the graying of nations." So the more we can learn about some of the problems of the elderly and some of the similarities between younger astronauts up here and older folks like me where there may be a correlation between body activities, we can learn more about what causes some of these things to happen. So, Annie has become very enthusiastic about this as well as the other members of the family also.

Newseum, Arlington, Virginia

Commander Brown, how are everyday experiences, such as sneezing, different in a microgravity environment? -- Emily Gould, Ronald Holsey and Elaine Mermick of Montgomery Blair High School

Brown: Well there is a number of things that are different; every day activities that you take for granted on Earth once you come to the weightless environment are actually more difficult or more fun sometimes depending on how you look at them. On Earth if you ever drop anything or let go of anything, it will fall to the floor; up here in space if you drop something or let go of something, it will float away and you will not be able to find it for a while. But as for sneezing and those kinds of things -- with seven people here in the Orbiter that is kind of a small compartment so if you get ready to sneeze, we definitely recommend putting your hand over your mouth because as you know, that stuff will not fall to the floor.

Senator Glenn, since you are experimenting to observe the effects of space on the elderly, what about observing the effects of space travel on the young? -- Susannah Rosenblatt, Kyle Casazza and Andy Miller of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Glenn: Well, I think we will get around to that sometime. But you know you have to be careful because you know we are talking for younger people, really young people we would be talking about their bones being formed and their bodies changing very rapidly as part of the growth process and up here that might be interfered with rather drastically. So I think we have to be rather careful on that, but perhaps that will be looked into sometime in the future. That is not an easy area to get into. Now I am at the other end of the spectrum here where bones and things like that are breaking down and we are trying to find out why things like that occur. But it is a good question and maybe sometime they will send younger people up, but I think they would have to be very, very careful before they do that.

Commander Brown, what experiments should be done on the International Space Station that may have potential benefits for mankind? -- Douglas Merrell, Paul Merrell andCraig Neely of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Brown: That is a very good question. We are right on the verge of launching the elements of the Space Station and starting to assemble the Station. The things that we are going to do up there are going to be very beneficial to the folks on Earth. We are going to do similar things that we do here on the Shuttle; however, on the Station we will be able to leave the experiments running for weeks and months and even years. It is kind of like going on a camping trip; if you go there and get all settled in, about the time you start to enjoy yourself you have to pack up and go home. And that is the problem with the Shuttle compared with the Space Station. Once we get here and get all organized and start doing our science, producing it, it is time to pack up and go home. Whereas the Station will always continue research for many, many months; so that is one of our big benefits with the Station.

Senator Glenn, what role do you think America's youth should play in the development of the space program? How should they get involved? -- Bladimir Castillo, Matthew Smith and Claudia Cabrera of Montgomery Blair High School

Glenn: Well, I think the youth should play a very major role because the future belongs to all the young people today and what we are learning is of benefit to all the people today, I mean into the future. So, I am glad to see so many people interested in what is going on. I think some of the interest has come from things like TV programs that are fiction like Star Trek and things like that, but you know I find when I go around talking to schools and places like that most of the young people are tremendously interested in space and they know a lot more about it than most of their parents do as a matter of fact because they have followed it closer and learned more about it in school. Much of what we will learn in the future will come from space. There will be a tremendous benefit to all the young people today.

Commander Brown, what foods do you eat and do you enjoy them? -- David Umoren, Sabrina Mack and Khadijah Dark of H.D. Woodson

Brown: Actually there are a lot of foods we can pick from, the foods I picked on my flight, one of our favorites is shrimp cocktail. We had that actually last night at dinner; we had some beefsteak, some spaghetti and meat sauce, teriyaki chicken, and for dessert we had some applesauce, some pudding, and some candy. So, we have a large variety of food and it's a long way from the first flight of Senator Glenn's - so we got much, much better food. As for do we enjoy them - that is one of the more fun times of the Orbiter life is when we all get together on mid deck and put our food together and tell stories and enjoy ourselves during the evening meal.

Senator Glenn, how do you feel about being part of a scientific experiment as compared to being a pioneer in space travel? -- Bernice Mireku, Katy Califa and Mary Anne Anderson of Montgomery Blair High School

Glenn: Well, I like both of them and back in the days when we were just going up for the first time and I was taking part in that, it was a brand new experience. And this time around we are on a different area of research. I am just glad to see things progress this far over these last 36 years. As we go across, I am looking out the window right now at the horizon way off some 2,000 miles away, I guess from this altitude we are at up here. It is a great experience to get up here and look down like this, but the major thing is all the research we are doing is of benefit to everybody right there on the ground. That is the main thing. I want to make sure we say hello to everybody around Washington we know and at the Newseum. I was there not long ago at a program; that is quite a place you have there, glad they could use that as a center for this kind of communication. Also, COSI in Columbus with Kathy Sullivan where we were at a little while ago. They are probably still listening. I am just glad we had a chance to get so many young people on today and answer a few questions. I wish you all could be up here with us and experience some of this, and look out and just see this; participate in doing some of the research we are involved in also.

Commander Brown, what impact has the space exploration had on the environment? -- Tiffany Thomas, Felicia Comfort, Jessica Rucker and Le'kia King of H.D. Woodson

Brown: I think the space business has had a big impact on our environment and how we live our everyday life. A perfect example is just last week we were worried about Hurricane Mitch, a very, very strong hurricane down in the Caribbean. It wasn't that many years ago that we didn't have any satellites that were up in space to look down and give us warning and help us prepare and hopefully save a lot of lives from the impending storm. So that is a perfect example of our space exploration. Also, our farmers these days worry about their crops and their yields. We now have satellites up in space that can look down on these crops and help us determine if they are getting the right amount of fertilizer; if they are getting the right amount of water, and what their yield is going to be - so those kinds of things have a huge impact into our every day lives. And the funny part about this is that people don't realize that without the space program that would not have come about.

Senator Glenn, are you concerned that the bone loss, which results from being in space, will be permanent because an older person cannot regenerate bones as well? -- Christian Cloke, Naomi Gottlieb-Miller and Joseph Lee of Montgomery Blair High School

Glenn: Yes, I am concerned about it, but I am concerned mainly that we do the research on it that we are doing up here so we can look into how we can prevent that sort of thing. I think the length of time that we are going to be up on this flight, just about 9 days, is not enough that my bones will weaken to the point where it will be a danger to me. But they are measuring that very, very carefully. We had very specific measurements of my bone and structure and everything several times over, repeated several times. We will do that postflight also to see exactly what the effect has been. So that is one of the purposes of this flight is to see whether there is as much change in the body of older persons as there is in the younger people who are the rest of the crew up here now. We have a long history at NASA in the data bank of younger people and this will be the first addition of someone older like myself to that. I think that eventually we will probably send more older folks up to continue this, so that a real data base, my being just a data point of one. I think look more to this in the future and I think my main task is to make sure we get back that good information so we can see the benefit of the value of it so we can then make the decision to send more older folks up and get a real data base that can lead on to medical studies that can be of benefit to everyone.

How does microgravity affect your ability to comprehend/process information? -- Shaheer Hussam, Karita Sharma and Justin Moran of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Brown: I don't think it really has that much effect on how to comprehend or understand; process information. But I use an example - it is kind of like riding in a car as a passenger reading a book and trying to concentrate on the book. There are a lot of things around you happening and a lot of things going by the windows, lot of people may be talking in the car. Those kinds of things do affect how your space operations happen so you have to be focused and concentrate and be very attentive to what you are doing up here.

Glenn: It is a very good question; one that the scientists have been looking into. One of the experiments I will be dealing with is cognitive responses. On a computer I will be measured on my reaction times and how they compare with all the many times I ran through the same thing on the ground; how well I remember things over a period of time. It is a test that takes about 25 minutes to run and we did it many times on the ground and now we will do it many times up here while we are in flight. I will do the same thing when I get back to Houston to see how the changes, what changes were in flight and postflight also. So, it is called cognitive response - reaction time, memory time, and comprehensive time - so that is one of the things we are looking at.

John Glenn High School, New Concord, Ohio

Senator Glenn, before your mission on Friendship 7, you told your wife Annie that you simply went to the store to get some gum and that you would be back soon. What explanation did you give Annie this time? -- Laura Merry, Katherine Hartman and Levi Shegg of John Glenn High School

Glenn: Well before I get into that just let me say "Go little Muskies" there and I am glad to be talking back home to New Concord. A lot of big events for me happened around that town. As you all know, it used to be New Concord High School years ago downtown which is now the grade school when I went to school there. But just wish you all the very best and just wish you all could be up here yourself. It is a great experience, we are doing a lot of great experiments and just part of the personal experience of being here in weightlessness and looking around; it is just terrific. So, I wish you all the very best back home in New Concord. To answer your question - we had some similar little thing. There was some joke back in the old days. I don't even remember the joke, but it ended with sort of a punch line of "Well, I am just going down to the corner store to get some gum" and I did say that back then. And it was sort of a little thing that we repeated several times when I went overseas in the war and one thing and another and it led up to the spaceflight, used the same thing; so and so. Annie and I had sort of a little ritual at various times when I am going to be away. But this time just a short trip, this is only about 9 days, but looking forward to being back already but there is so much to be done up here that is of interest that you are just fascinated to be here and be participating. I know many of you right there in New Concord will be able to do some of these same things some day. Okay, next question.

Commander Brown, you probably grew up looking up to men like John Glenn. How does it feel to work with such an American hero? -- Jeremy Parrish, Jeff Moffitt and Kyle Cunningham of John Glenn High School

Brown: You put it right. When I was growing up, Senator Glenn was definitely one of my heroes. I was pretty young at that time, but as we grew up obviously the history books and the events of the times you understood how that all got started and Senator Glenn was a big part of that. How does it feel to work with Senator Glenn? Well, I think I speak for the whole crew, it has been our pleasure and we are honored to have him aboard. But he is one of the crew members and he has been very professional and energetic and motivated. He has done some fantastic work in the last few days and I expect the same out of him in the next 7. As of right now, he is a member of the crew and we are all teammates and you know it takes a team to get a job done and we are having a good team up here.

Senator Glenn, who were your influences in your childhood and why? Do you consider yourself a positive influence on today's youth? -- J. Kane Nick Thomas and Paul Steinberger of John Glenn High School

Glenn: Well, you know I had some wonderful people influence my young life right there in New Concord. My Dad was probably the single influence, but some of my teachers there too. Some of you may remember Hartford Steele who died just a few years ago. He was a terrific influence on my young life, took a lot of time to spend with us. The other man was Reese Keglin when I was in grade school there. Those are people who I really did look up to and, of course, we studied in school some of the great people of history and that was a big influence also. But I think most of the influence comes from the people you have daily contact with. I am sure many of your teachers right there in John Glenn High School are the most influential on your life right now outside your parents. So there were many people who had an influence on my life and I think the main thing is to just take them seriously, study as hard as you can and then you are ready for whatever opportunities occur. I was lucky to have some good opportunities in my life time, this being one of them. I had the background to make the most out of it, that is the most important thing.

Commander Brown, why will the Spartan satellite be placed into orbit for only 2 days? -- Nick Jones, Sean McDonough and Jason Leachman of John Glenn High School

Brown: Well the Spartan spacecraft is going to be studying the Sun, looking at the solar weather and the corona of the Sun. It doesn't have any telemetry down to the ground. In other words, when it looks at the Sun and gets that data, it will be storing that data onboard and only 2 days are required for the amount of data that the scientists need. If I am not mistaken, that is pretty much all the space they have onboard is in the stowage unit where the memory stowage is about 2 days of science. So after 2 days, we are rendezvousing back with Spartan and picking it up, putting it in the payload bay and bringing it back home at end of mission.

Senator Glenn, with all the experiments being performed, we've been told that you have 21 leads hooked to you, some with needles - how has this affected your mobility? Do you feel any pain? -- Sarah Felde, Larissa Chisnar and Renee Morrow of John Glenn High School

Glenn: Well, I don't have the 21 leads yet; we are just going to start that at our next sleep period. I do have 21, they will measure electroencephalogram, your brain waves, eye movements; EKG, your heart recordings; and body core temperature, a whole bunch of things. There are 21 different measurements being made. Now that is all contained, being recorded in a little machine that is on a strap around your waist; you just float around with it. It doesn't really hurt your mobility, but it is a funny thing to look at because to look at it you are looking at some kind of bug with all this head net on and all the different leads that come off of your head. But it is not that uncomfortable; I think it would be more comfortable here in space than when it was tested down on the ground where you had to try and sleep several different nights with all that rigged on. I think it will probably be better up here. But we will have that; I will be running those experiments over the next several days repeating them over and over.

Have you had any difficulties sleeping? -- Mark Fitzgerald, Lindsey VanVoorhis and Leah Beegan of John Glenn High School

Brown: I will go ahead and answer first. We have only had two sleep nights if I have not lost track. Both of those nights were very good for me. The biggest trouble we have up here in space is actually getting to bed; or actually the biggest trouble I have is getting everyone else to bed because you know if they go just a few feet and look out the window, they can see the beautiful Earth down below you as we fly around. But that is my biggest problem is getting everyone into bunks and getting them to sleep. But I think we have been working quite hard here in the last couple days and when it is bed time, I think everyone is happy to get there.

Glenn: I think what he referred to is getting us all to do something because everybody wants to be at the window and looking out when you are on the daylight side going around. I was pleasantly surprised the first night up here. I probably got 5 or 6 hours, 5-1/2 something like that hours of sleep and you are floating but you are in a sleep station and you are in something like when you go camping and you have a sleeping bag except it is very comfortable. Any pressure points you have, you move away from it obviously, so sleep went very well. Last night I had about the same amount of sleep that is a little shorter than occurs on Earth. I don't know that you need quite the same amount of sleep up here; you are floating around and maybe not quite as tired although tired from excitement, I guess; tired from looking out and those sorts of things. But, sleep has gone pretty well so far and I am looking forward to how it is going to work out when I get all the experiments on also, the sleep experiment.

Senator Glenn, was it worth waiting 36 years to be able to fly in space again? -- Jamie Archer, Andy Winner and Jennie Troendly of John Glenn High School

Senator Glenn: Yes (laughter), a one-word answer, I guess, I should stop there. It was indeed; you know I wanted to go up again back then and wasn't permitted to do so back in the old days, so I had always hoped to go again. As I got older, I thought that would lessen my chances ever going up again, but going back about 4 years ago is when we got in some of these possibilities of doing some aging studies here and the National Institute of Aging got behind it as well as NASA and set up the projects that they thought would be of benefit. I was able to qualify physically for this so I feel very fortunate to be able to come up again. Things are so different now than they were back then, but it is a very worthwhile experience and my answer is yes it was worth waiting for. Yes, it certainly was. Not just as a personal experience, but also in looking forward to some of the research we are going to do that is going to benefit everybody back there on Earth, benefit all of us into the future. Before we run out of time here, let me wish y'all at John Glenn High the very, very best. We will be seeing you back there one of these days. I am sure I will be back in New Concord, maybe we can come out and talk to all of you in person there one of these days. So go ahead.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 03/04/2003
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