BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. – Can you imagine feeling three times the force of gravity?
Captain Kenneth Ham can, because he’s lived it.
Ham, a NASA astronaut and commander of the space shuttle, recently recounted his space travels in a visit to the Imagine Nation children’s museum.
When the 4.5 million pound shuttle lets out 7 million pounds of thrust, it’s “absolutely fantastic,” he said.
He described it as the feeling you would get when accelerating in the car for a few seconds before regulating – except in a rocket with 3Gs and the feeling of going constantly faster lasting almost 10 minutes.
Ham really seemed to have the statistics down. He said it takes precisely eight minutes and 23 seconds to get into space.
The trip to the International Space Station, said Ham, takes about a day and a half. That makes it relatively close to Earth, because it takes three to four days to reach the moon – something NASA hasn’t done in many years.
Even ordinary actions are cool in space.
In zero gravity, Ham said, if you want to pass something to someone who is far away, all you have to do is give it a little push and off it goes.
In space Ham could see individual cities and even airports if he looked closely through the “big beautiful windows” of the shuttle.
Earth looks small from space, he said.
“The planet is all by itself,” said Ham, “floating in nothingness.”
Living in space was “completely different” than on Earth, said Ham, the biggest contributing factor being zero gravity.
Going to the bathroom, he said, is “not easy,” but taking a nap is, because it’s possible to simply stop, close your eyes and sleep.
Space suits, Ham said, are “like a mini space ship” because they keep astronauts warm and provide water and air.
Ham’s favorite part of daily life on the space ship is eating.
The food is very good and there is an endless menu, he said.
But his wife, Michelle Ham, did not agree, joking that he would indeed eat anything.
She teaches astronauts in training for the International Space Station and has for almost a decade.
She said there are just 75 astronauts in the program, but tens of thousands of employees working to make sure that they could go into space.
Francis Byrne is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.