Orbiting about 250 miles above Earth, NASA astronaut Kevin Ford spends his days working with a crew studying potential cures for osteoporosis. But he's longing for a golf range and a meal that doesn't come in a ready-to-eat package.
Ford, currently the commander of the International Space Station's Expedition 34 six-person crew, spoke to several dozen St. Raphael Catholic School students Tuesday afternoon via a live video feed.
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During the half-hour chat, students were able to watch Ford float around a portion of the space station as he answered their questions. Ford was only able to hear the students.
"(Floating in zero gravity) is pretty crazy. We get used to it after a while so it becomes very second nature for us to fly around and use handrails to guide us easily inside the space station," Ford said as he performed a variety of zero-gravity gymnastics.
"I think if I had to choose, I would rather have gravity instead of zero gravity," he said. "It's fun for a while, but I'd rather live on Earth."
Ford joined the space station in late October and is scheduled to return to Earth in mid-March.
"I'm conditioned enough now that I can stay up here as long as they need me to," he said. "But I'm looking forward to coming home."
Conditioning in space, he said, is one of the few activities that requires effort.
"Floating up here is almost like lying in bed all day because it takes no effort at all," he said. "So 22 hours a day is like being in bed, so I take advantage of two hours on the elliptical and weight machines to get strong."
The brief visit was organized by St. Raphael's reading specialist Kathy Tierney, who met Ford over the summer.
"We rent a lake house in Indiana and his family happened to be renting the house next to us," she said. "I asked what he did and when he told me, I asked him if he'd help me do something with kids. We exchanged emails and that was that."
Tierney said she hopes Ford will be able to visit the school in person after his mission is complete.