Joe Acaba at ISS talks to students in Puerto Rico

Recently we saw this interview on NASA TV and we loved it! The well-thought-out questions of the students and the cultural richness of this bilingual discussion captivated us. Furthermore, the questions connect to many commonly discussed topics in Spanish class, allowing it to be returned to multiple times, spiraling in new topics along the way.

Watch the video and reflect on the guiding questions. Feel free to answer in English, Spanish or both, like Joe Acaba, who gracefully floats across and between the languages with the same ease as bouncing to the wall and back in microgravity.

Guiding Questions

  • Which question from the students intrigued you the most? Why?
  • What follow-up question would you like to ask, based on one of his answers?
  • How is life on the Space Station similar to (and different from) your own?
  • What skills does Joe Acaba mention or seem to benefit from?
Transcription

How would you compare your most recent spacewalk with spacewalks during your previous missions and do you feel more comfortable or anxious? (Comparisons)

    Yo me sentí más cómodo because this was my third one, pero cada caminata tiene sus retos entonces siempre hay que mantenerse enfocado porque si no, puede tener problemas, pero me sentí bien cómodo. Gracias y bienvenidos a Estación Espacial Internacional.

Did being a teacher provide any advantage to being an astronaut? (Professions, Superlatives)

    I think being a teacher is a great profession for becoming an astronaut. You have to be a good communicator, you have to think on your feet because the plans are always changing, so I think it’s a great profession y quiero decir que yo creo que ser maestro es la profesión más difícil y más importante del mundo y quiero dar las gracias a todos los maestros por sus sacrificios y el trabajo que ustedes hacen a diario. Muchísimas gracias.

Do you know the full schedule of the activities every day before you go to the ISS? (Daily Routine)

    No, that’s one of the fun things about being up here for a long period of time. You never know what you might see when you arrive and you never know what might break. For example, our toilet broke just the other day, so we had to fix it and, of course, that was unexpected.

Could you describe a typical day and activities in the ISS? (Daily Routine, Telling Time)

    Sí, un día típico aquí levantamos como a las seis de la mañana. Empezamos a trabajar como a las siete y media, pero durante el día es algo diferente. Por ejemplo, estoy ahora aquí hablando con ustedes y ahorita voy a trabajar con el vehículo de carga Dragon. And so every day is different. Usually we have the final conference at around 7:30 at night and then we try to go to sleep maybe around 10pm and somewhere in between there we have lunch, breakfast, dinner and we also exercise for about two and a half hours every day.

What is the most impressive view from the ISS and has your opinion changed during your trips? (Expressing Preferences, Environment)

    Pero, claro, tiene que ser la isla y me gusta tomar fotos de ella, pero también me gusta ver todos los colores de África y the Auroras are incredible. My opinion hasn’t really changed but every time that I’m here it makes me realize more and more how much we need to protect our planet.

Do the astronauts have free time to socialize with the other crew members? (Hobbies, Days of the Week, Holidays, Global Citizenship)

    Sí, tratamos de cenar juntos cada viernes. So we try to eat together every Friday night y los sábados juntamos otra vez para ver películas. So, we’ll try to get together on Saturdays and of course, any time that we have a holiday, just like we had Christmas and New Year’s, we always get together to celebrate that as one international crew.

What did Puerto Rico look like after Huracán María went through the island? (Disasters & Relief Work)

    Pues, lo primero que yo noté fue la falta de electricidad. So the first thing I noticed was the lack of electricity in Puerto Rico. Usually when you fly over Puerto Rico at night, it’s very easy to identify the island and it was almost impossible to see it at night because of the lack of electricity. Quiero decir que mi corazón y mis oraciones van a toda la gente de Puerto Rico. Yo sé que el tiempo fue difícil, todavía es difícil y estoy pensando en ustedes.

After Hurricane Maria, it was difficult for some Puerto Ricans to eat from the small variety of available food. Is it difficult for the astronauts to adapt to their limited menu options? (Food)

    We have a pretty good menu but it repeats itself about every 7-14 days. The food is pretty good. It does get a little monotonous but it’s definitely not as good como un pernil, los pasteles, arroz con gandules, so I’m ready to get home and have a great meal.

What is the minimum number of astronauts required to operate the ISS and what is the maximum number of astronauts the ISS can hold? (Numbers)

    Pues, el mínimo que tenemos aquí son tres astronautas pero normalmente tenemos seis, como ahora. A veces tenemos nueve. So the least that we will have up here is three. The normal complement is six astronauts, like we have right now. Sometimes we will have up to nine. When we were flying the shuttle we might have had up to maybe 15 or 16 astronauts. But typically it is six and we may increase that up to seven.

Are astronauts allowed to visit any area inside the ISS? (Global Citizenship)

    Sí, no hay que tener una visa aquí en la estación y ahora mismo yo estoy en el module de Japón. This is the Japanese module that I’m in right now. For us to go to the Russian segment, we just float right on over and they also come over here when we eat together, when they exercise. So we have the whole Space Station y somos un equipo internacional.

How often and how long do you have to exercise in order to maintain muscle and bone health? (Healthy Living, Daily Routine)

    Cada día hacemos los ejercicios por dos, dos y media horas. Tenemos una bicicleta. Tenemos un treadmill y tenemos otra máquina que se llama ARED. The ARED is a machine that it feels like you are lifting weights. We do that every day para mantenerse los huesos, los músculos. Estamos ahora regresando muy saludable. We work out every day to maintain our muscles, our bone density. Today astronauts are returning home very, very healthy.

Teacher and Astronaut Joe Acaba: “You can move around very easily and so you become very comfortable”

How difficult is it to adapt to microgravity and all the sunsets and sunrises each day? (Healthy Living, Daily Routine)

    Everybody’s a little bit different. Most of us do not feel great when we first arrive to the Space Station, but usually within a week, maybe a month, most of us feel really, really comfortable. You can move around very easily and so you become very comfortable. Having the different cycles of day and night does not really affect us unless you’re looking out the window. No se siente como tiene ese tiempo. For me, this time around, it was very comfortable and it felt like coming home.

How difficult is it for the astronauts to go quickly to sleep and do you wake up frequently? (Healthy Living, Daily Routine)

    Para mí, no hay problemas porque al final del día, estoy bien cansado. I can sleep, so for me there’s no problem. At the end of the day, most of us are pretty tired and we’re ready to go to bed. For me, I do not wake up all night. Sleeping inside of a bag is really, really comfortable and some of the best sleep of my life has been up here on the International Space Station.

How often does the ISS encounter potential collision problems like meteorites and space garbage? (Environment)

    That’s a great question. When we go out on spacewalks, we can see areas where we have been hit by micrometeorites. Also, on the windows that we have, we can see that. For items that we track, if they’re big enough, we can actually change the orbit of the Space Station. We probably do that maybe 3 times a year to avoid any kind of debris.

We know the Space Station can recycle/purify liquids to make them drinkable. How efficient is this process and can you describe your experience drinking recycled liquids? (Healthy Living, Environment)

    Yo sé que no suena muy bien que estamos tomando que fue orina, pero tenemos un sistema aquí increíble donde podemos reciclar orina, sudor and the condensation. It probably doesn’t sound great, but we do recycle our urine and we have a great system up here and the water comes out very, very clean. We test it very often. It’s natural water and it tastes great and we know it’s very safe.

How does the ISS stay clean inside? (House & Chores, Days of the week)

    Nosotros mismos tenemos que limpiarla. Cada sábado tenemos como tres horas donde estamos haciendo una limpieza. Es como en la casa, tú tienes limpiar la casa, pero aquí estamos viviendo no solamente una casa, pero un laboratorio. Entonces, cada fin de semana tenemos el vacuum, estamos limpiando. But the Space Station is old so we do have some areas that have stains, but we work hard every weekend, and even during the week, to keep it as clean as we can.
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