DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Astronaut Ellen Baker, left, answered questions from seventh-grade students at Sacred Hearts Academy yesterday after lecturing at the school. Andryna Kapoi, at the front of the line, asked Baker if food floats in her mouth when she eats in space. Baker told her no, she just swallows. CLICK FOR LARGE
Astronaut fields weighty queries
Students focus on underreported issues when a NASA visitor addresses classrooms
It was an inevitable question: How do astronauts in space use the bathroom?
And NASA astronaut Ellen Baker was ready for the responses.
The toilet is similar to the ones at home, only it has bars on the side to wrap around the astronauts' thighs to strap them in.
"The bathroom works OK, and it works on the principle of suction, so think about that," said Baker, who has completed three space missions.
"Ewwwww," responded the 40 seventh-graders at Sacred Hearts Academy yesterday morning during Baker's speech on being a NASA astronaut.
Baker, who was visiting the island as a judge for the Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair, made stops at Sacred Hearts Academy and Hickam Air Force Base yesterday to talk to students and show them pictures from her time in space.
The pictures that received the most giggles were ones of life in space -- a man reading a Harry Potter book, another playing a trumpet and an astronaut making breakfast tacos on the wall.
Don't try making breakfast tacos on the wall at home, she joked. And don't eat bread in space, either, she warned. The crumbs make a mess.
"At home you wipe the table off, but in space they're just floating everywhere," she said.
Baker said she likes talking to students because they are naturally curious, and she enjoys inspiring youngsters. She told the Sacred Hearts students that people usually become astronauts in their 30s, after schooling and work.
Spending that much time in school doesn't scare 12-year-old Jennifer Nishida.
"It's worth it," said Jennifer, who wants to conduct experiments in space.
Andryna Kapoi, 12, isn't so sure if she wants to be an astronaut. But she had to ask Baker one last question, should she ever change her mind.
"Does food float in your mouth after you chew it?"
To Andryna's disappointment, it doesn't. It just goes right down.