Thisstory was updated at 6:16 p.m. EDT.
HOUSTON --Juggling ping pong balls and blobs of juice, teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morganand her crewmates described life in space to students on Earth Tuesday as NASAponders a possible repair for their shuttle Endeavour.
Morgan, 55,and her crewmates discussed theirSTS-118 spaceflight and answered questions for students at the DiscoveryCenter of Idaho in Boise in the first of three planned educational eventsspaced throughout their 14-day mission to the International Space Station(ISS).
"Well,astronauts and teachers actually do the same thing. We explore, we discoverand we share," Morgan said when asked about her dual role. "The greatthing about being a teacher is you get to do that with students, and the greatthing about being an astronaut is you get to do it in space. And both areabsolutely wonderful jobs."
JoiningMorgan in the broadcast were fellow Endeavour astronauts Dave Williams, AlvinDrew, Jr. and ISS flight engineer Clayton Anderson. Together they answeredquestions ranging from the visible effects of global warming from space and howstars appear out the space station's windows.
"Whenwe look outside, it's very much like trying to look at stars in Boise,"Morgan, a formerMcCall, Idaho, schoolteacher, said as she answered one question, addingthat the lights on the ISS and Endeavour are very bright. "You can seesome, but then if you go up high in the mountains up to McCall and you have allthe lights out, that's what it'll be like once we undock from station and turnall our lights out."
Morganoriginally joined NASA in 1985 as the agency's backup to Teacher in SpaceChrista McAuliffe before the tragic Challenger accidentin January 1986. McAuliffe originally planned to teach a class lesson fromspace. NASA recalled Morgan from her teaching post in 1998 to train as afull-fledged mission specialist and educator astronaut.
WhileMorgan and her crewmates worked in space, NASA engineers continued evaluatingwhether the astronauts will have to repair a small,but deep gouge on the shuttle's tile-covered underbelly caused by fuel tankdebris during their Aug. 8 launch. A decision on whether a fix is required isanticipated for Wednesday, mission managers have said.
In a separateinterview session with reporters on Earth earlier today, Morgan and hercrewmates said they were confident Endeavour was safe to fly home, but wereprepared for any repair work if required.
Before theymade their space broadcasts, Morgan and her crewmates delivered a massive newspare parts platform to the ISS.
Dubbed theExternal Stowage Platform-3 (ESP-3), the exposed hardware depot weighs about7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms) and has space for seven major ISS components.The platform is stocked with a battery charging unit, a spare robotic arm jointand a nitrogen tank assembly for the station's cooling system and was stowed onthe Port 3 truss segment of the orbital laboratory.
Morgan andSTS-118 mission specialist Tracy Caldwell plucked the new spare parts platformout of Endeavour's payload bay with the orbiter's robotic arm, then handed itoff to the station'sown robotic appendage wielded by shuttle pilot Charlie Hobaugh for final installation.
The abilityto store large components, especially those only NASA shuttles can carry, is vital forthe ISS as the space agency prepares to retire its three aging orbiters inSeptember 2010, mission managers said.
"Eachtime we bring spares on board, we're getting ready for shuttleretirement," Joel Montalbano,NASA's lead ISS flight director for Endeavour's STS-118 flight, told reporterslate Monday. "So this is just another step in that preparation."
NASA isbroadcasting Endeavour's STS-118 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates andSPACE.com'sNASA TV feed.
- VIDEO: Endeavour's STS-118 Mission Profile
- VIDEO: Teaching the Future: Teacher-Astronaut Barbara Morgan
- Complete Space Shuttle Mission Coverage