Space Team Online QuestChat
Date: April 15, 1999
Featuring: Debra Reiss-Bubenheim
Life Sciences Division
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 5 - 08:37:36
Hello to our early arriving chat participants! Today's Space Team Online
chat with Debra Reiss-Bubenheim from NASA Ames Research Center will begin
at 9:00 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time. Be sure you have read Debra's profile
before joining this chat.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 6 - 08:37:59
Once the chat begins, Debra will attempt to answer as many of your questions
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do not appear on your screen immediately during moderation. They will
be held in our chat queue and posted as Debra answers those ahead of you.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 7 - 08:38:21
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[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 8 - 08:38:39
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[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 9 - 08:50:58
Hello and welcome to today's Space Team Online chat with Debra Reiss Bubenheim
from NASA Ames Research Center. Debra spends most of her time working
with scientists, engineers, and flight operations staff on different experiments
being developed for space shuttle missions and the future International
Space Station. She is currently working on a project for the upcoming
STS-93 mission. The project will focus on how microgravity effects how
the brain develops and communicates with muscles in the body.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 10 - 08:51:17
And now, here is Debra Reiss-Bubenheim to answer your questions.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 13 - 08:55:22
As a junior high school student, what did you most want to be and who
was your favorite author? Did you have any favorite books?
Hi Stephanie and Jenna, Actually, I was really never in "junior high".
The school system in Philadelphia where I grew up had just elementary
school (up to 7th grade) then 8-12 in high school, it was like being a
freshman twice!! Anyway, I was in a "college block" curriculum, because
college was my goal and I was interested in science courses even then.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 16 - 08:57:12
How many years of college (total) do you have? What was your favorite
course in college?
Hi Chris and Joey, I have 4 years of undergraduate work (BS degree) and
2 years graduate school (Master's degree) for a total of 6 years.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 17 - 08:58:35
Who or what inspired you to pursue your career in science? Did you have
a dream of working with NASA from an early age?
I was always interested in science and was inspired by the Apollo missions
and to this day remember my mom getting us up out of bed to watch the
first lunar landing, that was inspirational!!
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 20 - 09:00:57
In your work with NASA, what has been the greatest moment that ever happened
Joey and Steve-- Meeting the shuttle astronauts is always exciting! I
have had the privledge of training crew members about our life sciences
experiments. Then, when the mission is underway and the hardware and operations
are performing without a hitch, then I feel a sense of accomplishment
that the investigator's experiment is being performed well!
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 23 - 09:02:17
Are you ever in danger as you are performing experiments?
Matt and Willie, No, I'm not in danger because I am a ground support person,
I have not trained as an astronaut so I'm pretty safe in the lab.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 25 - 09:04:16
RE: [Ozan] I'm a senior at a high school
getting ready to go to college. I'm planning to get a Bachelors of Arts
degree in Astronomy. Would it be a disadvantage for me to get a bachelors
of arts instead of bachelors of science if I want to work in NASA?
I'm not that familiar with individual astronomy programs, but if you have
a choice, I think the science degree would open more doors for you and
appears stronger on job applications.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 27 - 09:06:08
Do you think you will ever have the opportunity to go into space to perform
any of your experiments?
Hi Chad and Malcolm, I would have to go through extensive training to
become a payload specialist and then to actually get the opportunity to
fly. If I could just "beam" up, then I would! But, for now, I'm content
to train others and manage the experiment from terra firma.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 30 - 09:10:09
RE: [Ozan] Why is it that always drosophilia
are used in experiments such as your microgravity experiment? Aren't other
Good question. For this particular experiment, the investigator in interested
in specific motor neurons and their development in space. He's proposing
the hypothesis that the microgravity environment will alter the development
of the nerve endings and the development of the central nervous system
(CNS). He has actually developed this strain of fruit fly in his lab for
this mission. It fluoresces or "glows" green and the neurons can be seen
under a fluroescent microscope when the fruit fly larvae return from space.
We try to fly the appropriate species for the scientific question being
asked. Drosophila are ideal for space flight since their life cycle can
be easily manipulated by controlling the temperature in which they develop.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 32 - 09:13:51
RE: [Ozan] Since I'm a non-US citizen,
I am not eligible to be a mission specialist or a pilot abroad a space
shuttle. How hard is it to become a payload specialist?
Ozan, Does your country of origin have a space program? We work with many
other space agencies around the world and we have also flown foreign astronauts.
With the International Space Station becoming a reality, there will be
a lot of international cooperation and astronauts will be selected from
around the world. It's an exciting time to be preparing for a career!
Your second question, yes, I think that having the science degree is important.
Many astronauts have multiple degrees in different fields and many are
pilots. They are amazing individuals and enjoy challenges.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 33 - 09:14:22
Good morning. Sorry we are late. Could not get carrier signal (bad phone
plug). Some third graders who have never chatted are here. :-)
Always a pleasure, Mrs. Mock. As you can see, Debra already has her hands
full with many questions this morning. We'll do our best to answer your
class' questions, too!
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 37 - 09:19:36
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] Why would
a microgravity environment alter the development of the nerve endings
of drosophila? Does the microgravity environment have the same effect
for humans that travel to space?
Ozan, Yes, the nervous system is always changing and adapting, especially
to new environments. The investigator will be looking at the very early
development with the fruit fly model in the eggs and larval development
to see if the neurons develop correctly to their target muscles. This
has implications for long-term space travel potentially.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 39 - 09:20:51
What do you do for future flights on ISS?
Hi Steven, We are developing new hardware that will support plants, animals,
insects and cells for experiments on the space station.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 41 - 09:22:18
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] Unfortunately,
the country where I live, Turkey, doesn't have a space program (and I
don't think we're going to have one any time soon). Since becoming a U.S.
citizen is very difficult for me, how would it be possible for me to be
Well, Ozan, you might consider US citizenship or also look into the European
Space Agency (ESA). If this is your dream, then you will find a way to
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 43 - 09:25:55
We'd like to remind you to share your thoughts with us at the conclusion
of today's chat. You may visit our online feedback page at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys
to provide your comments to us.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 45 - 09:27:15
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] Do you think
that the ISS is really necessary? I've read that billions of dollars are
being spent on it mainly by the American Government. Don't you think that
we need to give more importance to issues like preventing famine or trying
to find non-fossil fuels before spending money on not-so-urgent issues
like the ISS?
Ozan, Another good question and it is one that NASA must address often,
even for shuttle flights. Our mission at NASA is to explore space. This
has been an interest and fascination of human kind since the first humans
gazed at the stars. We always want to explore new frontiers to better
our existence here on Earth. All of the issues you mention are certainly
important, but the cooperation between many nations will produce some
outstanding advances in technology, medicine, material sciences, engineering,
etc that will have direct application for those of us on Earth. I really
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 47 - 09:30:10
What is a Drosophila fruit fly?
Hi Nick, A fruit fly likes to eat and lay it's eggs on rotting fruit.
Have you ever left a banana laying around for a long time until it's black?
Fruit flies seem to find rotting fruit and go wild with it. They also
have red eyes. If you go to the web page about the experiment, there might
be a picture of one. Or you could look it up in a book about insects.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 49 - 09:31:42
What was your favorite thing in science?
Michael, My favorite thing in science was studying living things like
plants and animals. My science degree is in plant science. I liked classes
where you get to grow plants or animals and to touch them.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 52 - 09:34:05
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] Keeping in
mind that the microgravity environment has effects on the development
of nerve endings for drosophila, what would happen if a zygote were to
develop in space? Do you think the outcome would be a normal human being?
Ozan, The changes may be very subtle and it is unknown if all body systems
or functions or genetics would be affected. We have flown quail eggs,
fish eggs, insects, and frog eggs on short flights without abnormalities
so far, but we must fly living things for long duration flights to look
at the impacts, if any, of long exposure to space flight.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 54 - 09:36:12
What was the first animal sent into space?
Bobby, The first animal sent into space was a dog. It was sent into space
by the Russians first to see if it would survive since we didn't know
much about space back in the 1950's and 60's. The Russians also sent up
monkeys, too, before people.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 56 - 09:37:57
Have you ever sent a chimpanze up in space alone?
Yes John, the Russians have sent up monkeys and NASA has also flown Rhesus
and squirrel monkeys. We haven't flown any recently, though.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 59 - 09:39:25
Have you ever flown a space shuttle without a piolet in it?
Leslie, Most shuttle missions have a commander (who's in charge of the
mission) and a pilot, just like on an airplane. There are also mission
specialists who are scientists or engineers and are career astronauts
and payload specialist who just fly one mission.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 60 - 09:40:21
Have you ever wathced roket man?
Leslie, Yes, both sons and I have watched Rocket Man, it was a pretty
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 63 - 09:43:33
How long does it take to make a landing craft?
John, It takes a few years from the design of any spacecraft until it
flies. There are a lot of tests that have to be done on the ground first
before it can go into space.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 68 - 09:47:35
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] I've really
wanted to learn this for a long time: Why did astronauts plant the U.S.
Flag on the moon after landing on it for the first time in the history
of mankind? Don't you think a flag of the United Nations would have been
more appropriate to avoid declaring the moon as the property of the nation
who went up there first ?
Oran, The late 1960's were a turbulent time between the USSR and the US
as far as the cold war and the space race. Then President Kennedy had
given a challenge to Americans to send a man to the moon and safely return
him by the end of the decade of the 60's. There was a lot of patriatism
about the Apollo flights and a lot of competition with the Soviets to
see you would get to the moon first. If we go to Mars, it will be on a
cooperative, international flight since no one country has the resources
to do it alone and I think a UN flag would be more appropriate in today's
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 73 - 09:50:01
What kind of food do you eat in space?
Leslie, The astronauts can pick the kinds of foods that they like. Sometimes,
if they are part of a nutrition study, they have to eat certain foods,
but they pretty much can choose what they like. They have a refrigerator
and microwave on the shuttle. Space affects your taste buds so astronauts
like to eat spicier foods. They also take candy like M&Ms with them.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 75 - 09:50:50
How many light years is the moon away from Earth?
Michael, The moon is only 3 days away from the Earth by spaceship.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 77 - 09:53:24
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] Why can't
some astronauts walk for a certain period of time after they have returned
from space? Do you think that a longer space flight (like a flight to
Mars) would cause serious injuries in astronauts?
Ozan, Due to the lack on gravity on bones and muscles during missions,
the muscles and bones become weaker, so when astronauts or cosmonauts
return to Earth, they are dizzy and have difficulty walking until their
bodies readapt to 1G. This is why we must continue to study the effects
of microgravity on the body for long missions. Is there a point where
you won't be able to come home??
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 78 - 09:55:14
As we near the end of today's chat, we would once again like to remind
you to share your comments about today's chat with us, at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 79 - 09:56:11
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] Thanks for
answering so many questions. Do you believe in astrology? Don't you think
that we should be seeing articles about astronomy instead of horoscopes
in popular newspapers or magazines?
I must admit, I do read my horoscope, but don't put much stock in it.
I think that we are seeing more articles in popular magazines since the
Mars Rover, the Hubble telescope and the Glenn flight have made space
interesting to people again.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 80 - 09:59:20
What was your favorite subject in 3rd and 4th grade? What was the most
memorable thing that you loved the best in school?
Leslie, My favorite subjects in 3rd and 4th grades (after recess!) were
English and Math. I first wanted to be a teacher. But in my NASA job I
still get to teach astronauts and I get to talk to students like you about
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 81 - 10:00:41
What was the name of the first air craft you sent up in space?
Michael, Alan Shepard was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth
in a Gemini capsule.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 86 - 10:04:08
RE: [John/3grade] What planets have
your people in NASA been on?
John, Astronauts have only been to the moon so far. We have sent unmanned
crafts to Mars and Jupiter.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 87 - 10:05:16
RE: [MrsMock] Do you know BJ Navarro?If
so do you do the same kind of job as she did on Neuron?
Mrs. Mock, Yes, I work with BJ and we are good friends. I was involved
in the small payloads program, so I didn't work directly on Neurolab.
[ DebraReissBubenheim/ARC - 88 - 10:06:40
RE: [Leslieandcompany] Thank you for
chating with us you really liked it.It is really an education for preschoolers
and up to collage people.
Thanks everyone for your questions, it was a pleasure to share my experiences
with you. Keep learning as much as you can about math and science. There
are jobs that haven't been invented yet that you will be doing in the
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 93 - 10:17:05
RE: [Ozan/UskudarAmericanAcademy] Oran,
ok. Thanks for hosting the chat, it really helped me.
You're welcome, Ozan. Have a good day! We hope you can join us for our
next Space Team Online chat on Monday, April 19, with Andrew Petro from
NASA Johnson Space Center. We also invite you to join us on Wednesday,
April 21, for our chat with Joe Delai from NASA Kennedy Space Center.
Be sure to read Andrew's profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/team/petro.html
and Joe's profile at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/team/delai.html
in order to prepare your questions. Check the Space Team Online chat schedule
page at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/chats
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to learn about other upcoming chats with NASA experts.