A Visit With a Scientist!
Two of our group members, Shreya and I, Alvin, along with our assistant coach Rosa Lau were fortunate enough to have had the chance to speak with Stan Fukunaga, a scientist from Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland California. He teaches biology and has studied weightlessness. We arrived after hours, and Mr. Fukunaga was standing there waiting to greet us. He first took us to a backroom lab where we would spend most of our time. There were tables scattered in the middle of the room with lab benches and posters surrounding the walls.
We all sat down at the tables and immediately began to inform Mr. Fukunaga on what we were researching. He was fascinated at our topic of weightlessness in space and the effects it has on the human body. Interestingly, he had spoken to another scientist who had spent some time in space. Some of the things Mr. Fukunaga remembered from that space explorer painted a nostalgic view of space travel. People would not be able to stay up in space for more than six months without facing serious health issues, let alone reach Mars. Not only does space pose physical health complications, but mental ones as well. When the scientist was up in space, his pen slipped from his hands. He instinctively reached out to grab it. However, his hands went in the wrong direction. It took some time and conscious thought before he finally was able to grab it. What would have been a normal task on Earth was changed by all the different variables in space. Another phenomenon that happened in space was only realized upon arrival back on Earth. As he looked through the notes that he took in space, he was confused at what he had written. It felt like someone else wrote them.
"People would not be ale to stay up in space for more than six months without facing serious health issues..."
EXPERIENCING AN EFFECT OF WEIGHTLESSNESS
To demonstrate some of these effects, Mr. Fukunaga gave us a test. We were to throw a ball into a bucket from a distance of one desk. The twist was that we had to wear goggles that impaired our vision, similar to beer goggles. Shreya and I were shooting the baskets while Mrs. Lau and Mr. Fukunaga were on the other side returning the balls. At first, we were missing the shots. I felt that I was shooting the ball to the left of the basket even though I knew it was directly in front of me. After a while, we got the motion to make the baskets. The lesson was that our body adapts and relies on different senses when our others become unreliable or are failing. We unconsciously adjusted our shots by remembering our previous attempts and what our muscles did. This is exactly how it is in space. Eventually, the astronauts adjust to their environment and it becomes almost like their new home.
Written By: Alvin
We would like to give special thanks to Mr. Stan Fukunaga, Education Manager at Chabot Space and Science Center, in Oakland, California, for his kindness and time in teaching us about the effects of weightlessness. Our visit with Mr. Fukunaga has given us a much better understanding and insight into this topic. With much appreciation, The Wildcat Gurus