During the race to the stars, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12th, 1961. The UN recognizes today as the International Day of Human Space Flight to commemorate “the space era for mankind, reaffirming the important contribution of space science and technology in… increasing the well-being of States and peoples, as well as ensuring the realization of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes” (UN).
As we think about the first human in space today, I’d like to share a first for my Astronaut Health class… a real live astronaut in attendance! As the consumer health coordinator, I created a course on astronaut health and STEAM resources (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math). I have had the wonderful opportunity to present the session at different conferences throughout the South Central Region. Sleeping Bear Press was kind enough to send on my invitation to astronaut Clayton Anderson and he came to attend my session at TLA! Clayton was very enthusiastic and interactive during the session and answered several of my presentation questions with real world experience.
While discussing astronaut anatomy, I mention that fluid shifts may cause Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) syndrome in some astronauts. In other words, their eyesight can worsen in space. Clayton let me know that he did not suffer from loss of vision after five months in space, due to a special protein in his body. My mind was blown! We also discovered that astronauts eat tortillas instead of bread in space, not only because the crumbs could float into and ruin equipment (or lungs!), but because bread goes bad faster and takes up more room. He added a very unique perspective to the session. I would like to extend a huge thank you to Clayton Anderson for coming and also to Sleeping Bear Press, TLA, and Mike Pullin for helping to make it possible.
Astronaut Clayton Anderson’s own session, Turning Pages into Dreams, took place right after mine. I attended his session and was delighted to find he was a raucous hoot and an unexpected package of astronomical hilarity. For visual evidence of this, see the photo above! He talked about his own experience growing up, becoming an astronaut, what it was like, and told us about the books he has written since. His latest book is titled A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet and is filled with beautiful illustrations with an A to Z space story for little ones, along with additional text in the side bars for all ages.
After the excitement of having an astronaut attend my class, I’m already looking forward to the next event and it’s one you can participate in too. Taking place on and around April 12th is “Yuri’s Night”. Held by science centers and other organizations around the world, Yuri’s Night combines education and outreach with space-themed partying to celebrate humanity’s journey into space as well as the anniversaries of Yuri Gagarin’s trip to space and the first space shuttle launch on April 12, 1981. See the events list to find an event near you or to plan for next year!
For more information on the Astronaut Health: Science Education Resources session presentation, check out the Class Descriptions page on our website: https://nnlm.gov/classes/astronaut_health