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NASA Official Sheds Light on Space Travel

October 02, 1998|NANCY FORREST

Fifth-graders at Oxnard's Harrington Elementary School heard about diapers for astronauts, the possibility for life on Mars and diversity at NASA this week during a presentation by Donald Scott of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Among the highlights of the space agency's programs to be completed in the next five years, Scott said, is the $941-million X-33 rocket, an unmanned vehicle that will reduce the cost of putting one pound of payload into space from $10,000 to $1,000.

Scott demonstrated the fundamentals of rocketry and combustion, Newton's law of action and reaction, and other mathematical and scientific concepts that make rocket launches possible. He told the students how NASA's 250-pound spacesuit works, discussed the Hubbell telescope, and divulged some space secrets, such as how astronauts wear diapers on missions and sleep in restraints.

Scott said scientists have found evidence of life in the form of six rocks from Mars containing fossil bacteria.

"The rocks mark the first possible evidence of life on other planets," Scott said. "Plants will grow on Mars, but life on Venus would be so hot and heavy that you would be electrocuted, cooked, crushed and fried if you went there."

He noted that NASA has 12 Latino astronauts in its space program. Twenty percent of its astronauts are women, including Shannon Lusich, who has logged more flight hours than any other NASA astronaut. Twelve people, he said, have walked on the moon.

"One astronaut spent years studying science and thought because he needed corrective glasses, that he would never travel in space," Scott said. "But the rules were changed and he has been on three space missions so far. It just proves that dreams can come true if you focus on a goal."

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