Roberta Bondar speaks to school children all over the world and especially in her native home, Canada. Everywhere she goes, children love to ask questions. On this page, read about Roberta’s answers – including reflections on her work as an astronaut.
1. Did you want to become an astronaut as a child?
I did want to become an astronaut as a child. When I was eight years old, I built plastic models, rockets, space stations and satellites. I also looked up at the stars and wanted to see what Earth and the other planets looked like from space.
2. Was it cold in space?
Inside the space shuttle, where I and the other astronauts worked, the temperature was a normal 20C (68F). Outside the orbiter, however, it was extremely cold. We needed the protection of the shuttle and Spacelab to keep warm.
3. What kind of food did you eat in space? Did you like it?
There were three types of food that the crew ate on the trip. The first type was dehydrated food which had all the water removed from it before flight. The astronauts added hot or cold water when they were ready to eat it. There was some fresh food such as carrots and apples but it only lasted a few days because there was no refrigerator. The crew also ate tortillas instead of bread to reduce the number of crumbs floating in the shuttle. Finally, there was thermostabilized food which included items like beef and mushrooms. I found the food okay but the crew was usually hungry!
4. Was the uniform you wore comfortable and was it heavy?
The launch/entry suit weighed 34-46 kilograms (75-100 pounds) including the helmet and survival equipment. This suit was not comfortable for the launch because we had to lie on our backs for four hours before lift off. While in flight, we wore NASA qualified cotton shirts, slacks, shorts and socks.
5. Were you scared in space?
I didn’t feel scared in space, but I did feel uncomfortable when I looked away from Earth and saw the black of the universe. I realized that Earth was the only planet that could sustain human life.
6. What is it like in space?
The feeling in space flight is like hanging by your heels, with your head down below, with all the blood rushing to your head! At the same time, you feel as though you are at the top of a roller coaster when your stomach feels like it is going to lift off.
7. What got you interested in space flight?
I always liked being outdoors and looking at the stars. I was curious to find out what was beyond the bounds of our planet. These factors interested me in space exploration.
8. How does it feel to be Canada’s first female astronaut in space?
Being a Canadian astronaut rather than a female astronaut was more important to me and it was great to be able to represent my country on a space flight. It is important for women to know that they can succeed and that they are capable of achieving their goals. Also, I was very proud to be the world’s first neurologist in space.
9. How did you feel during lift off?
The feeling during lift off is like someone has taken you by the shoulders and is shaking you. One cannot see well because everything is vibrating.
10. How did you sleep?
On the shuttle someone was working around the clock in shifts all day and all night. The astronauts slept in metal cabinets stacked one on top of each other. There were thin cotton sleeping bags buckled into the bottom so we wouldn’t float away.
11. How did you brush your teeth?
We brushed our teeth just like on Earth with a toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothpaste was spit carefully into tissue paper.
12. What does Earth look like from space?
The crew members on shuttle flights do not see the entire Earth like the blue and white marble shown in pictures that were taken during the Apollo mission over 20 years ago. We saw Earth at a much closer range, with only one portion showing at a time. It looked like part of a large spinning ball.
13. How long were you in space?
My mission lasted eight days.
14. What are your favourite things?
Food: Skim milk
15. How do you say your name?
Bondar rhymes with ponder.
Adapted from www.senecac.on.ca/bondar/qabondar.html