Reaching for the Stars

It was an exciting moment for me to be just 5 rows apart from the Japanese astronaut who have been to space twice and clocked 6 months in space and 20 hours of space walk. I have been a great fan of a Japanese Manga (“Manga” is comics in the Japanese language) on the story of Japanese astronauts in training and what they do fascinates me even though the Manga story was fictitious.

Imagine my joy to be able to come so close to a real astronaut! The chance came when Mr Soichi Noguichi came to the Science Centre Singapore on 6 Dec 2011 and gave a talk on his space experience.

Mr Noguichi shared a video about the second time he went to space where he spent 177 days at the International Space Station. To complement the video, Mr Noguchi gave a commentary on the activities shown in the video.

Personally, I find it awesome. Not only did we see breath-taking photographs of planet Earth taken from space, we also had glimpses into the life of an astronaut in their space shuttle, how they eat, walk, run on threadmills, conduct the numerous experiments they have to do (while in communication with scientists and university professors on earth!), and even pretending to be Santa Claus. 🙂 The sight of “Santa” drew chuckles and smiles amongst the 200 plus audience in the auditorium.

The students were the most excited amongst the audience. Amidst the many questions thrown to Mr Noguchi by enthusiastic students fervently thrusting their hands in the air, two struck me particularly.

One student asked whether Mr Noguchi missed his family and whether he can bring his family with him to space. Another asked him whether he felt “insignificant” when he was in space.

To the former question which highlighted distance from loved ones, Mr Noguchi answered humourously that he will ask NASA to allow him to bring his family the next time. But what interests me more was his answer to the latter question. While he agreed that one will feel “insignificant” when looking at Earth from outer space, he shared that he still felt connected to Earth. He reiterated what he said earlier that he was still able to communicate with people on Earth via Twitter, Facebook and phone (There was an extract of the video clip of the astronauts on the phone with Mr Obama, the United States President). Such is the advancement of technology that distance has already been amazingly drawn closer (not just between countries but even between outer space and Earth).

Mr Noguchi concluded the talk by asking the audience to visit the Science Centre Singapore (SCS) regularly. He shared that he had come a day earlier to check out the venue, visited the exhibition galleries and was impressed with SCS which he said was one of the best science centres he has seen and a great place to learn. As a staff, I felt a sense of pride hearing this.

If I were one of the students sitting there listening to the talk, I would definitely have been inspired to be an astronaut (which Mr Noguchi had encouraged at the beginning of the talk as well) and probably be more spurred in the area of science learning than I used to be as a child.

Mr Noguchi’s talk was also reported by Asiaone.

There will also be a “Space, Science and Technology Seminar” by Prof Takashi Kubota and Dr Shinichi Sobue at Science Centre Singapore on 9 Dec, Friday, 6.30 – 9pm.


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