Last Friday (24/05/2019), our Classroom was extremely lucky to experience a once in a lifetime event. It was the day we had Wei Rui's NASA Video Chat with Dr. Jitendra Joshi that he won for the entire RealFun classroom. We had to book a big event hall for the event for everyone to join in on the fun.
Although it was about 5am in the States while having the chat, Dr. Jitendra was an amazing sport throughout it all and quite a few of our students were able to ask some really interesting questions. Scroll down below to see the questions asked by the kids and the answers Dr. Jitendra gave them. Be warned that some of the text has been slightly altered to be either shorter or longer for easier understanding and reading.
>> Dr. Jitendra's personal thoughts before asking questions:
"You remind me of myself: I was brought up in a small village in India and had a good school to go to but we didn’t have a lot of luxuries.
One thing to remember is that you're all extremely blessed and seem very bright so I want all of you to always work hard. Because in my fourth grade, I use to be someone from a small village in India who didn’t have shoes like you're wearing right now and I used to play a lot of sports back in the day because I was given free shoes by someone (it was the only way I could get shoes).
So if I can be here today, talking to you on behalf of a very prestigious agency like NASA, you can do it too. Remember, you don’t have to be the brightest person in class but if you are not the hardest working person there, you will be left behind. So if you don’t remember anything from this chat, remember one thing: that you can be anything with hard work and that only you can control your fate."
>> Question by Jasper Edric Anato Ngu: From the Doctor’s perspective, is Mars a habitable zone?
Answer: "Mars has a lot of things that Earth has. The difference between Mars and Earth is that you can’t just go there and open up your spacecraft to start building a house. The pressure on Mars is probably a twentieth of Earth's, so it has a very thin atmosphere. Mars also has Nitrogen and Oxygen as 2 of it's 3 major components, but 95% of Mars's atmosphere is Carbon Dioxide (CO2). So yes, there are resources there but we can’t use them yet. We have to take the CO2 in the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen, then use that converted CO2 with Mars's ice to make fuel out of it. We also have to maintain a habitat of 1 atmospheric pressure to live, so Mars is probably the closest thing that we know in our solar system that could potentially support this pressure and human beings."
>> Question by Wei Rui: My ambition is to be an astronaut, any personal advice for me doctor?
Answer: "Work hard young Astronaut, there’s no one degree to be an Astronaut. Astronauts come from all different talents: some Astronauts can be scientists, while others could be a chemist, a biologist, an Air Force pilot or even a teacher. So you don’t go to college or school to become an astronaut: you go there to become a chemist, a physicist, a mathematician, a biologist and everything else needed for research in space. My advice to you is to find things that you like, pursue them with a passion and work hard to become good at it."
>> Question by Khor Whye Wei: How does NASA intent to form an ecological cycle on Mars?
Answer: "People have always dreamt of both going to Mars and colonizing it. In order to achieve that, we'll probably use Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in its' atmosphere. We're planning to not just breakdown CO2 to Oxygen and Carbon, but to also hopefully use it to terraform Mars and start growing things on its surface to slowly make the whole planet like Earth. That’s something people want or have thought about doing in the long run, however, it’s a little bit impractical and we need to be careful that we don’t contaminate Mars with different material matter like from Earth. For example, any of Earth’s matter that we bring with us, we have to contain in our own confined habitat. So in terms of changing Mars's ecological cycle to our benefit, there’s talk that we should instead use the resources within its' own habitat for our house like structure that we're planning to build there."
>> Question by Chua Weng Xuan: When will we expect citizens to finally be able to travel to the moon?
Answer: "NASA recently announced that it was always part of the plan to go to the moon. We were there 50 years ago but we want to go there again in the next 5 to 6 years and go to its' south pole with human beings (something we've never done before). NASA wants to take its' next crew of astronauts which will comprise a Woman astronaut (NASA's 1st) and the next American man to the moon's South Pole. This is because many robotic missions to that region by many other nations have found that there’s a large amount of ice water there that we can use. Our current plan is to go to the moon by 2024 and keep going there continuously for a period of time to possibly make a settlement on it to learn how to live on it to prepare us for life on Mars and other planets."
>> Question by Edna Chang Li Hui: Can we terraform the moon within this century?
Answer: "Terraforming the moon is a little hard because the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere like Mars. We can think of terraforming Mars because it has Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in its' atmosphere. Earth's plant matter uses CO2 in order to grow, make material matter and also produce oxygen so terraforming Mars is a possibility but not the Moon because it doesn’t have an atmosphere. For the Moon, we plan to go to regions where there is ice and chemicals on it that we can use to help us live there."
>> Question by Sebastian and Toluwa: Where do you plan to go next after Mars?
Answer: "We want to go to the Moon for the next 10 or more years to learn how to live on its surface and how to use things on it.
We will use that knowledge to go to Mars probably in the year 2030.
We haven’t made a plan for human beings to go beyond the Moon or Mars since we'll not just be sending humans. We want to send satellites to Mars, Jupiter and other planets to study them. But for human beings, we plan to only go to the Moon and Mars, but beyond that, we haven’t thought of any human missions yet."
>> Question Goh Harn Yng: How soon we will be able to travel to space leisurely?
Answer: "There are two or three problems that we have to overcome to go to outer space. Living on earth, we are protected by our atmosphere from radiation. When you go out of the Earth’s atmosphere into deep space, radiation becomes a bit of a problem. Secondly, living in isolation where there is nobody else except the four crew members is also a problem. Once we tackle the problem of successfully deflecting radiation, I think there is a possibility to go. We are currently working on how to solve the radiation problem, but there's another thing that happens in space that we need to tackle. You lose bone and muscle mass in space, so your body starts to act differently because of it. We are using the space station to understand how to solve some of these problems but once we do, it will be easier for us to travel deeper into space."
>> Question by Sim Yong Zhe: How many galaxies do we know now?
Answer: "We have lots of telescopes in space and have discovered hundreds of thousands of planets, as well as many galaxies. There are many galaxies in and out of space but we do not know how many of them there are."
>> Question by Voon Sen Yu: How long can we live on the moon?
Answer: "We are actually trying to find out how long human beings can live in and out of space or in this case the Moon. Until very recently, we had an astronaut (Peggy Whitson) who lived the longest in space and will currently have one (Christina Koch) who will be living in space for a very long time in the ISS (International Space Station). We are planning to have more astronauts live for up to a year or more in space to find out whether they physically change a lot or not. Because sometimes you don’t change a lot if you live out in space for 30 to 60 days. That's why we’re trying to find out our limit. The Moon has a little more gravity than the space station. It's not as good as Earth but that’s no reason why we shouldn't give the astronauts the food, oxygen or shelters they need to live on the moon for a year or more."