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Hanging Out Live With Astronauts From the International Space Station

Are dreams affected by microgravity? How do you exercise in space? What’s that on Chris Hadfield’s forehead?

These were among the questions posed to NASA astronauts — three of whom are orbiting 240 miles above the Earth, from the International Space Station (ISS) — during NASA’s first live Google Hangout.

Astronauts Kevin Ford, Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn answered questions from the International Space Station, while NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Nicole Stott fielded questions from the ground. Questions were submitted live and through social media using the #askastro tag. You can watch the discussion above or on NASA’s Google Plus page.

Here are some of the gems delivered by the astronauts during the chat:

In space, astronauts can turn like falling cats by twisting their bodies. They see shooting stars below them from the space station, but no satellites. Space, says Canadian Space Agency’s Hadfield, is so deep black “it almost has a texture when you look at it.”

And in orbit, gravity causes blood to shift upward through the body toward the head, resulting in puffy faces and skinny legs. With extended time in space, the heart shrinks, as it pumps less blood. This interesting physiological phenomenon about living in space came from NASA astronaut Nicole Stott.

“For some people, this happens more significantly than others,” Stott said. “Some feel congested. That happens and it kind of mellows out after a while.”

As for exercise, astronauts aboard the ISS use the on-board treadmill and stationary bikes to do an hour of aerobics and an hour of weightlifting every day to keep their muscles strong.

Coming home and readjusting to gravity is a challenge, Stott said, adding that upon return, she felt like she weighed 500 pounds.

But nothing, Garan added, compares to the feeling of being back home. He recalls landing in Kazakhstan.

“I remember looking out that window and seeing grass and flowers and thinking, ‘We’re home.’ Even if we’re in Kazakhstan, home is Earth,” he said.

And as for the object seen on Hadfield’s forehead: it’s a temperature probe that measures his body’s circadian rhythm. He has another probe over his heart.


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    Rebecca Jacobson, Patti Parson and David Pelcyger contributed to this report.

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