Eight Canadian astronauts were in Ottawa yesterday to help launch the Canada Aviation and Space Museum’s new exhibition – Living in Space.
In front of dozens of grade six school children from a local public school, the astronauts patiently explained in detail how they go to the bathroom in outer space.
Fortunately, the kids wanted to know more than that.
In addition to the porta-potty demonstration, the astronauts walked guests around the many artifacts on display. The astronauts explained how they ate, slept, cut their hair, shaved and entertained themselves in space.
"This is a rare glimpse of what it is like to live in space," said Canadian Space Agency President, Steve MacLean.
According to the exhibit, it's not all fun. Weightlessness affects the human body in a variety of ways. In order to counteract the negative aspects of zero gravity, the astronauts are required to exercise two hours per day and take a variety of nutritional supplements, as well as participate in a post-flight rehabilitation program.
There are other issues that astronauts have to deal with.
Obviously, being away from one's family for extended periods of time has an affect on your well being, but it is more than that.
"I missed the wind in my face," said Robert Thirsk, who spent six months at the international space station in 2009.
When asked by one of the school children what skills are required to become an astronaut, Dave Williams' face lit up like a Christmas tree.
"You need the passion to pursue your dreams," he said. "The one common denominator (among all astronauts) is the passion for the quest for knowledge."
Mr. MacLean said the astronauts aboard the shuttle are very busy with planning and executing space walks, using the robotic Canadarm, and conducting a huge number of scientific and medical experiments.
"There is a bond amongst us that we are doing something important," said Mr. MacLean.
The astronauts hope the exhibit inspires young people to pursue higher education and follow their footsteps into the space program.
For more information, check out the Canadian Space Agency's website at www.asc-csa.gc.ca.