PANAMA CITY – “Can you see the effects of climate change on earth,” a curious young student in Panama asked astronauts aboard the International Space Station in an earth-to-space video call on Friday.
NASA Astronaut Christina Koch replied that they have noticed “with our own eyes” how glaciers were receding over time when they fly over in space.
“For example, Patagonia in South America, we can see the front lines of those glaciers and see how they change over time,” Koch said during the 30-minute call, answering questions from international students of schools in Panama City.
“There is a lot of different things we can see if we were up here long enough to observe that. For example, you could think about sea-level rise. But I would say glaciers are the one things that we have our insight on with our own eyes,” Koch said.
Koch and another NASA astronaut Jessica Meir heard questions from the students who asked them about their experience in space.
Replying to a related question on the future of earth and climate change effects, Meir said NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program was carrying out studies beyond the earth that can help in many processes vital to keeping our planet healthy.
“Taking care of our one home planet is an incredibly important goal for all of us. When we study planetary bodies…, we also learn a lot about our home planet,” she said.
NASA’s Artemis mission is set to land American astronauts, including the first woman and the next man, on the moon by 2024, with eventual human exploration of Mars.
Inquisitive about daily-life problems in space a kindergarten student asked Meir how did she scratch an itch with a spacesuit on.
“That is a very important question and something that both of us have battled out there when we are doing a spacewalk. You just cannot reach anything,” she said, adding astronauts have a device in space suits that “doubles as an itching device.”
The two astronauts carried out the first all-female spacewalk in October 2019. They ventured out again on a second all-female spacewalk on Jan. 15 to upgrade the ISS’ power grid.
Koch is returning home in a week or so after ending an 11-month space mission, the longest ever by a woman. She has been there since last March. Meir arrived at the space station on Sept. 26 on a six-month mission.
Viki Siebert, director of the International School of Panama, said the event to let students talk to the astronauts was “historical” and gave the students “an opportunity like no other.”