Humans “passengers on Earth,” astronaut tells students

Astronaut Don Pettit, KD5MDT, told students at an Australian school that humans are more like passengers on Earth than stewards of the planet. Pettit commented during an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact March 19 with students at St Ursula’s Girl’s College in Toowoomba, Queensland.

“Mankind’s place in the universe, from this experience I believe, it reminds you that men are not the stewards of Earth but more like we are passengers on Earth,” Pettit said via NA1SS, “and the planet will go about its business regardless of what human beings do, and we just need to make sure as human beings that we do things wisely and don’t mess things up for ourselves.”

During the QSO, Pettit also confirmed that Earth is, indeed, a sphere and not flat. “If you view the earth with the unaided eye, it’s difficult to detect the presence of humans,” he said in response to another question.

Pettit–who had served as crew spokesperson for most Expedition 6 ARISS contacts–also addressed the issue of privacy between male and female residents onboard the ISS. “Out of necessity, we can’t have separate facilities up here,” he explained. “So male and female astronauts have to share the same bathroom and the same shower and all those facilities. You have very little privacy up here.”

Pettit managed to answer 15 questions put to him by 11 St Ursulas’s students, who ranged in age from 13 to 17. Teacher Jason Contarini said the students had competed to participate on the basis of questions submitted in advance. Handling the contact was ARISS Earth station veteran Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, in Kingston, South Australia. Tim Bosma, W6ISS, moderated, and WorldCom provided the teleconferencing circuit.

ARISS is an international program with participation by ARRL, NASA and AMSAT. For more information, visit the ARISS Web site;