Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Q&A in the Real World

Mantic59 asks: I know Texas is in a “State of Emergency” and was declared a disaster area. Will NASA let you "restart" the study at a later date?
Sarcasmo answers: Nah, we were too far along to start again, and the staff said that after any long-term study, we must wait a year before being eligible again. At this point, we would not pass the original physical screening.
Pillownaut Answers: More recent check-ins might be able to restart. However the facility’s first floor at UTMB is flooded and has no power, so I don't see them resuming regular operations anytime soon. We hope to travel there and visit when it does, just because we so worried about what happened to everyone!

ZwedishPzycho asks: Would you consider coming back for a second attempt at the whole thing? Would NASA let you?
Sarcasmo answers: If I had another shot, absolutely!
Pillownaut Answers: In a heartbeat.

Christy says: I bet it was weird to just stop laying down. Hey the good news is that you can have chocolate and pizza again :)
Pillownaut answers: Many of you are doing what we’re doing – finding that silver lining! We’ve had many discussions along the lines of enjoying all the things we CAN do now, such as WALK, order restaurant food, take proper showers, etc...
Sarcasmo answers: Yeah, we’ll probably always be bummed that we couldn’t finish our project, but I am glad I'm out while there is still some summer left, so I can travel to see some friends and family.

Roz of San Jose, CA asks: Could they not continue the tests after the hurricane?
AJ from Honduras asks: I'm sorry it had to end prematurely. I read somewhere in your blog that you'd have your beds wheeled out in case of an emergency. Since this was anticipated, couldn't they have wheeled you to ambulances or helicopters and put you in some other hospital? I'm just asking because it would've saved a lot of days/money worth of science studies.
Pillownaut Answers: We were also told that in the event of evacuation, we would be moved in a van at –6 and continue the study at a facility at JSC. However, while the emergency was “anticipated,” we actually left quite late. They originally evacuated the Florida Keys for Ike, and thought it would never reach Texas! When Hurricane Rita hit Galveston a few years back, they got the evacuation order a week before. We didn’t get an order until two days before impact.
Sarcasmo Answers: This was also a question of MAGNITUDE. Ike grew to the size of Texas itself. Normally, they said we'd move to the Space Center... but we then found Houston was also being evacuated! Any place they could have taken us where the same equipment existed and the medical personnel knew all our protocols… well, they were also being rushed north.
Pillownaut adds: Yep, priorities changed. All we could do was get clear to a regular hospital. Asking anyone to stay and worry about our particular diets and data would have been impossible, when they had to worry about their families and homes too.

Kim asks: It's been a pleasure to learn about the 'pillownauts' contribution to science. I'm glad we haven't bothered ya'll too much :) With your interest in space, I have one question, do you have to have a PhD to become an astronaut?
Sarcasmo Answers: We’re glad you enjoyed it! It's definitely never been a bother... we’ve had fun writing together, and will continue to do so as long as we get questions. I'm headed out, but I will still keep in touch by phone if Q&A continues.
Pillownaut Answers: The majority of the 300+ people who are or have been in the astronaut corps hold PhDs or multiple masters degrees in many sciences… most were pilots, most were in the military at some point of their lives, and a few were school teachers. However, to be an astronaut candidate, it’s never been a non-negotiable requirement. Neil Armstrong did not have a PhD. He had a bachelors and masters, and was given some honorary doctorates after walking on the moon. Reading some of the biographies of Active Astronauts, International Astronauts, Former Astronauts and Deceased Astronauts shows an incredible range of backgrounds, education, and accomplishments! Definitely worth the read.