STEAM Advisory Board member Dr. Tess Caswell talks Blue Origin & outer space with Middle School students
Through our partnership with IBM and NASA, fifth-graders had an out of this world afternoon when they were able to Skype with STEAM Advisory Board member Tess Caswell, who is a New Shepard Capsule Controller at the private aerospace company Blue Origin. Prior to joining Blue, Tess received her PhD in Planetary science from Brown University, served as a NASA simulation astronaut as part of the crew of HERA XI, and worked in Mission Control for the International Space Station.
During their hour together, Dr. Caswell provided the students with an inside look at her time spent on the HERA XI mission in which she and three other scientists lived in a simulated space station for 30 days. Dr. Caswell explained that she and her crew were on a simulated mission to an asteroid and followed all of the same protocols as if they were truly in space. The goal of the HERA XI mission was to provide NASA with invaluable data to use for future missions.
The students were engaged and intrigued at the glimpse into the life of a simulated space mission and asked Dr. Caswell insightful questions during their Q&A time such as what her favorite planet is and why, did she ever get claustrophobic in such a confined space, and would she still like to go to space? Her answer to that last one was, of course, a quick YES!
Throughout their month-long mission, Dr. Caswell and her colleagues provided daily updates on their health through MRI's, ultrasounds of blood flow, sleep studies, body temperature reads, visual and audio testing, and stress tests. The outcomes of these tests help to understand the physical and mental health challenges that astronauts could face while living in space. The HERA XI team also had the opportunity to test out new instruments and tools, trained for spacecraft emergencies, completed virtual reality spacewalks, studied asteroid rock, and even got to test out the latest in space food.