20 questions with…NASA Astronaut Dr Jeanette Epps

In collaboration with the US Embassy in Malta, St.Paul’s Missionary College students experienced a live video conference call with Dr Jeanette Epps.

On Thursday 25th April 2019, a group of 35 12-year-old students were invited to visit the US Embassy. The purpose of this visit was to have a STEM Careers chat… with a NASA Astronaut!

One of 7 kids in her family, Dr Epps did not always hope to become an astronaut. She was always good at maths and science and her teachers always encouraged her to keep pursuing these subjects. Eventually, she obtained her Ph.D in aerospace engineering. She has since worked for Ford as well as the CIA as a researcher. Eventually, she was persuaded to apply for the Astronaut program and was accepted!

She shared with us that her training did not only involve doing the space walk…but also learning Russian and well as flying on the NASA T-38 jet.

Students were then given the floor to ask Dr Epps questions and she was lovely at answering all of these!

She discussed the health risks of space travel such as loss of bone density and that this is tackled through exercise. She mentioned that some astronauts actually return to Earth healthier and fitter! A student who had his appendix removed asked her whether she’s had hers removed as he read some astronauts opt to remove this before their travel as a preventative measure…she has not! Having said that, astronauts do take basic medical training so as to support themselves or colleagues if they get sick or injured. Training to become an astronaut is not easy at all and it also requires lots of physical commitment. The suit alone weighs over 100kg! Dr Epps’ training also involved a NEEMO mission where she lived with 5 colleagues under water for 9 days!

Dr Epps shared with us her concerns about climate change and how she believes we as humans and inhabitants of this planet need to change our views and habits in relation to our planet. Viewing our planet from space puts things into perspective…this small tiny globe is all we’ve got and it is our responsibility to take care of it.

Did you know that her favorite space food is Thai curry! She also enjoys the sweet and sour pork. The food comes packed in air tight seals and is dehydrated. Hot water is added and the food is ready to be eaten.

Dr Epps concluded by saying that students should always work hard but more importantly do what they love! If they work in an area they are passionate about, she mentioned that their experience will keep building up; people will notice and opportunities will always follow.

Dr Epps is truly an inspiration and on behalf of my students, colleagues and myself we are incredibly grateful for her time and readiness to answer our questions!