Adjusting to life on Earth can be challenging for people like Eric Boe.
In space, you do not hand things to each other in the traditional sense. Tossing a pen in zero gravity or leaving a piece of paper floating near someone's head is acceptable behavior.
For days after a return flight, it takes concentration to hand his wife anything, he said.
Boe is one of NASA's top astronauts. Remember the final Space Shuttle Discovery mission launched nearly a year ago? Boe was the pilot.
He gave a presentation to students Jan. 11 at the Northwest Career and Technical Academy, 8200 W. Tropical Parkway. He spent about two hours in the morning talking about his experiences and answering students' questions. He also shared some advice.
"Sometimes you can't wait to get out of high school or college, and you miss the experience," Boe told them. "Life is all about experience."
His PowerPoint slide projected on two screens in the theater echoed his mantra.
"Things I've learned," it read.
"Life is a journey, enjoy the trip
"Never give up
"Find your passion."
Of course the kids wanted to know about the real important stuff.
"Is it hard to sleep in space?" one asked.
"Yes," Boe said.
Astronauts get used to sleeping on the floor, wall or ceiling, he said, though those terms are pretty irrelevant without gravity. They use sleeping bags attached to the interior of the ship and Velcro straps on their heads to keep their pillows from floating away.
"How's the food?" another asked.
It's like any kind of packaged food on Earth, Boe said. They can eat pretty much anything they can eat down here ---- fish, pasta, you name it. They also like to bring fresh fruit and vegetables, but they must consume those within a week or they spoil.
Astronauts abide by a no-bread rule because they do not want crumbs floating around. They eat peanut butter and jelly tortillas instead. Boe has gotten so used to it that he regularly eats tortillas instead of bread.
Adjusting to meal times isn't as easy, either.
The space shuttle orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, and crewmembers experience 16 sunrises and sunsets daily.
"Time gets confusing," Boe said. "Your watch becomes your life."
Boe was joined on stage by his longtime friend Brian Denholm, a retired Air Force pilot. Denholm, a North Las Vegas resident, is a Southwest Airlines pilot and was the one who convinced Boe to visit the school. Denholm's wife employs a senior at the school who expressed interest in becoming an aeronautical engineer.
For students interested in working for NASA, Boe recommended going to its website, nasa.gov, and reading about the careers available.
A high school diploma is a must, he said, and a bachelor's or master's degree or a doctorate will help.
The NASA website recommends an interest in math and science classes. Boe also said mechanical and technical skills are helpful because astronauts also have to act as a ship's mechanic when something goes wrong.
Northwest career and Technical Academy teacher Anthony Chapple had students at the presentation from his science class, where they study alternative fuels and transportation. His students were studying some of the same things that Boe discussed. His class had discussed the polymer found in the tiles that coat the shuttle, enabling it to withstand extreme heat.
NASA accepts thousands into its Astronaut Selection Program, Boe said, but selects only the top 10 or 15 in a class. He also said that NASA usually selects astronauts around the ages of 35 to 45.
Boe told students that NASA is not abandoning space exploration and that many opportunities exist. Six astronauts stay on the International Space Station at all times -- three Americans and three Russians, who rotate every six months. If you plan on being one of them, you will need to be bilingual.
Members on board space missions usually wake up to music that they or their families select, Boe said. On Discovery's last mission, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, lent his voice to NASA and woke up the crew every day with a modified version of the Star Trek opening theme, accompanied by the original soundtrack.
"Space -- the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Discovery..."
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-5524.