BHUBANESWAR: Space is apparently more hostile to human life than the sea as it escapes Earth's gravity. But US space scientist and NASA astronaut Jack D Fischer find it mesmerizing.
The Colorado native served as a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station of the Expedition 51/52. He logged 136 days in space with two other spacewalkers and landed on Earth on September 3.
Jack was here on Wednesday to attend the SAITED, a Tech Fair of SAI International School. Stressing on the need for collaborative missions to explore space, he said it is too expensive for any country to explore Moon or Mars on its own.
"We really need to work together or we won't get there. Hopefully, its not a race, it's a big marathon," the young astronaut said denying that the US is facing any competition from India as far as space exploration is concerned.
"I don't see any competition from India as we consider the country as friend. We have been working together. It's a wonderful country which is rich in heritage and culture besides its ancient," he said.
The astronaut said spacewalking is so much fun. A day in space is only 45 minutes as it gets 90 minutes to go around the Earth. In 24 hours you can see 16 sunrises and sunsets, he said.
"When you see the entire earth is under you, it feels amazing. I have seen the beautiful earth and its different moods, the galaxy and billions of stars. Even the mightiest of mountains looked so small against the vastness of space. I loved playing with foods. Though eating in microgravity can be challenging, it can also be a lot of fun," he said with a smile.
Major challenges people face in space is that they fall sick often, because the vestibular system gets screwed up.
Since there is no gravity to pull blood down, people too face a lot of congestion in head and get increased pressure which can affect vision. They also suffer from bone and muscle aches.
But Jack was lucky as he never got sick at all and adapted very quickly because of his experience as a test pilot.
"Going to space ages you and to prevent it we do different types of exercises and take calcium supplements," he said.
The mission team conducted 337 biological, biotechnology, physical and Earth-science experiments in space. They had different investigations on bone mass, increasing bone growth with new drug, technology demonstration and used capillary action which can not be used on earth as gravity dominates it.
"We did drug trials, especially cancer drugs, we grew long tissues with cancerous cells and then injected new drugs to sort out the antibodies in the cancerous cell leaving the healthy long tissues alone. It is kind of targeted chemotherapy, which is very rare," he informed.
For him, the communication with family was better when he was in space. It was actually better than his military days when he used to get only a five-minute call a week. During his first deployment post 9/11, he could not communicate for two months. But from space station he was able to talk to his family almost every day and had video chat once a week.
The US space scientist fell in love with the idea of going to space after visiting NASA headquarters in Houston.
At six, he had visited Johnson Space Centre in Texas where his grandfather was working. "I would love to live in space if my wife is around," he said.
The experience of farming in space was something he would love to do again. "We grew cabbage and other vegetables as
we need to grow food for long duration missions. But the challenge was finding different kinds of fertilizer balls and keep them contained for each plant species besides finding best wavelength of light for their growth. But we did it pretty well," Jack said.
Later, he met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. "It was pleasure meeting @NASA astronaut Dr @Astro2fish and gain insights into the wonderful world of space. He recently returned from a 136-day mission aboard @Space_Station. Looking forward to his association with us in promoting science, astronomy & space-tech in #Odisha," Naveen tweeted.