Skyping with Space: Honors Students Video Chat with International Space Station Astronaut, Col. R. Shane Kimbrough
January 25, 2017
In what would have been science fiction a mere decade ago, students from the John V. Roach Honors College and peers had the opportunity to enjoy a video chat with Col. R. Shane Kimbrough, currently working on the International Space Station (ISS). Col. Kimbrough is the father of TCU Freshman, Taylor Kimbrough, who hails from Houston and is majoring in Motion Science. NASA routinely provides this service of a private video chat with friends and family for those serving on the ISS, in this case, also with Taylor’s TCU friends, peers, and professors.
Col. Kimbrough first gave a brief background about living and working on the ISS. In contrast to the slow, quiet Hollywood images we picture, the ISS races 250 miles above the Earth at a speed of 17,500 mph. Kimbrough described great joys, like observation of repeated sunrises and sunsets daily (about 45 min apart), seeing abundant aurora borealis, experiencing the beauty of the turquoise water of the Bahamas and the intense reds of the Sahara Desert, and working daily in a collaborative environment with multiple nations. He repeatedly talked about enjoying his service to human advancement through the research being conducted on the ISS. He thoroughly enjoyed one research project in particular, which tested methods to grow lettuce in space, the best part of which was eating the fresh green produce. He admitted to feeling a bit like Matt Damon in The Martian! One insightful question from a speech pathology major focused on the ability to swallow while in space, which Kimbrough said took time to adapt to in low gravity conditions. Negative aspects of serving on the ISS were, of course, missing his family and friends, and having to exercise many hours daily to fend off muscle atrophy due to minimal gravity.
In attendance at the event were close friends of Taylor; students in Honors, the Army & Air Force ROTC, Engineering, Pre-health, Physics & Astronomy, and Nursing; and a few faculty and staff. Attendees asked questions and engaged Col. Kimbrough in discussion for 36 minutes, while the ISS was in range.
Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Diane Snow, facilitated the event. Dean Snow currently conducts research with Kentucky Space related to the effects of microgravity on nervous system function, and serves on the Advisory Board for Space Tango, Inc., a for-profit company focused on the commercialization of space. Dr. Snow shared some details of her research, and encouraged students to be open to opportunities in space science. “Our life paths are rarely linear, and you just never know where an opportunity might take you!”