NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch chatted with singer and talk-show host Kelly Clarkson from the International Space Station today (Nov. 14), discussing everything from spacewalking to self-care and even moonwalking.
Before beginning the chat, which happened on Clarkson's talk show, the "American Idol" winner exclaimed, "Look how cute they are; they're in space! So, technically, they're aliens, cause they're in space," before realizing her microphone was on. Once connected with the astronauts, Clarkson marveled at Koch and Meir's incredible journey and floating microphone and asked, "What was it like the first time you made it to space? How did you feel?"
"It was an absolutely incredible feeling," Koch said. When she saw Earth below her the first time, she thought, "I knew, yes, I am really in space."
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"What's the purpose of this particular mission? What work are you doing up there right now?" Clarkson asked.
"Any type of science, we are doing it up here," Meir said. She described some of the specific investigations, such as protein crystal growth experiments and combustion experiments that are done on the station. Scientists are studying how microgravity affects the human body and operations over the long term, to inform future long-duration missions into deeper space, Koch said.
The conversation took a turn for the silly as Clarkson asked, "Has any astronaut ever moonwalked while doing a spacewalk?" Koch and Meir didn't didn't think so, but Koch said they would mention it to astronauts Luca Parmitano and Andrew Morgan, who are set to do a spacewalk tomorrow (Nov. 15).
After discussing the challenges facing astronauts on spacewalks, Clarkson asked if Koch and Meir could do flips in the microgravity environment on the space station. Meir held her knees to her chest, and Koch spun her around.
Clarkson asked if they had any advice for girls watching you who might want to be astronauts.
"I think that one of the things every single astronaut will say is, it's important to follow your passions," Koch said. "You really have to remember that it's OK to take a risk," Meir added. "You have to be willing to take that risk and accept that you're going to fail along the way."
After chatting with Clarkson, Meir and Koch took some time to speak with Madison Feller of Elle magazine. After asking how the astronauts got where they are today (Meir even mentioned her first job as a lifeguard), Feller asked the pair about self-care on the space station and if and how they find opportunities to unwind and find some work-life balance.
"The only difference between the space station during work and during our off-time is whether the cameras are on," Koch said. "So, at the end of the workday, when the crew has their dinner, is one of the few times that they have to relax. But it's really important to recharge, so people may take some personal time during lunch. Getting lost in her work and focusing on the task at hand help her de-stress.
One of the best "escapes" the astronauts have on board the space station is looking out the window. "It is absolutely, phenomenally beautiful," Koch said.
Meir and Koch recently completed the first all-woman spacewalk together, replacing one of the station's 24 battery charge/discharge units. Both astronauts are on a short list of women in NASA's Astronaut Corps who may be chosen as the first woman to land on the moon as part of NASA's Artemis 3 mission, which is set to launch by 2024.
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