NASA ISS Science Officer Ed Lu, KC5WKJ, told youngsters at his hometown alma mater via ham radio this week that zero gravity (G) feels a bit like going over the top on a roller coaster. The May 27 Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact with Klem Road South School in Webster, New York, was the first for a member of the two-ham ISS Expedition 7 crew and for Lu, who had attended the kindergarten through grade 5 school some three decades ago.

“If you’ve ever been on a roller coaster and you go over the top of the roller coaster you feel that feeling like you’re kinda light–you’re floating up on your feet,” Lu explained. “It’s almost exactly like that but a lot stronger.” Weightlessness “feels great.” After some time in zero gravity, however, “it feels like your legs weigh a ton,” he added, describing his own post-space shuttle experience.

Lu told the youngsters that while he was speaking to them from NA1SS, he was floating–and relaxing–about a foot above the floor and about to have a lunch of lamb, a chicken omelet and cookies for dessert. “I like the food up here a lot,” he remarked later. Most of the current cuisine is Russian, he said, but he anticipated some Chinese and Hawaiian fare to arrive aboard the next Progress supply rocket. The ISS crew typically eats three meals a day, he said.

The lack of gravity does make it necessary to secure everything, including eating utensils, so they don’t float off. Another downside of zero G is that the astronauts aboard the ISS must exercise regularly. “If you don’t exercise, all of your muscles get smaller, and that includes your heart,” he explained in response to one boy’s question.

In all, Lu answered about a dozen questions, although apparent signal dropout and noise plagued the last minute or two of the QSO, rendering his replies barely intelligible. Lu advised the youngsters that, while expertise in science and math was most important to becoming an astronaut, skills and specialties vary among those in the Astronaut Corps. “The common thing among all of them is that all of them did pretty well at whatever it was they chose to do,” he said.

With the ISS was over Hawaii at the time, radio contact with NA1SS was established via Nancy Rocheleau, WH6PN, in Honolulu, who arose before 3 AM to serve as control operator for the QSO. An MCI teleconferencing circuit linked the school with WH6PN. ARISS is an international program with participation by ARRL, AMSAT and NASA.