NASA astronauts take on the internet's biggest questions about space

Contributed by
Mar 28, 2018

For most of human history, space presented the ultimate mystery for anyone who ever looked up at the night sky. Thanks to the space race during the 20th century, our knowledge about space has grown exponentially. However, there’s still quite a bit we don’t know. But when the internet has questions, it’s always best to go to the experts! Recently, Wired filmed a video with seven NASA astronauts and challenged them to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about space.

You may recognize astronaut Chris Hadfield for his memorable cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which he recorded in space. Joining him were Jeffrey Hoffman, Mae C. Jemison, Jerry Linenger, Mike Massimino, Leland Melvin, and Nicole Stott. Among this group, Hoffman was the expert on Mars, and he had one of the best answers about whether there’s life on the red planet: “There will be once we get there!” It’s hard to argue with that! Hoffman is also optimistic about scientists eventually finding a way to get to Mars faster than six to nine months. 

The most intriguing responses included the fact that humans do age more slowly while out in space, and it takes somewhere between eight and nine minutes to reach space in a shuttle traveling at escape velocity. Amusingly, all of the astronauts agreed they were vastly underpaid. 

There were even a few questions this group couldn’t correctly answer, including the number of satellites surrounding the Earth. [The answer is 1,738, according to the video.] The astronauts also dispelled the myth that the Great Wall of China is visible from space, while reiterating that Mars is often visible from Earth. 

This was a very condensed education about space, with a few frank responses about how and why NASA was formed. Even after a much slower pace than anyone hoped for, the assembled astronauts still seemed to be bullish about humanity's future in space. That's a vision of the future we share, and we'd love to see it come to fruition within our lifetime.