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In Google+ hangout, astronauts talk tech, Isaac Newton and Twitter

Sharon Gaudin | Feb. 25, 2013
This marked the first hangout with astronauts onboard the International Space Station

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station didn't panic when their communication link to the ground was cut off this week.

That's the word from NASA astronauts who took questions Friday during a Google+ hangout . They also talked about why they use Twitter, what scientist they'd like to bring into space and what inspires them.

Google+ hangout

NASA astronauts on board the International Space Station took questions today during a Google+ hangout.

It was the first Google+ hangout with astronauts living on the space station.

"I don't think anybody tries to use technology to push back the edge of human experience more than we do," said Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut working as an engineer on the space station. "We try to improve our understanding as a species. We're leaving Earth. It's too good an experience not to share. With the technology we have, we can real-time communicate with just about anybody on Earth who has a computer or an iPhone."

Hadfield said he uses Twitter to share his everyday experiences in space.

"It's a great way to communicate the thoughts and emotions we're having," Hadfield said during the hangout. "As far as being a media star, this is a really rare human experience and we know how lucky we are to be here."

A Google+ hangout enables a face-to-face online chat for as many as 10 people, though thousands can watch it live on Google+ or YouTube.

People participating in the hangout ask the astronauts questions, and others submitted video questions via YouTube, using the hashtag #askAstro.

This is Google's second high-profile hangout in just a week.

Late last week, President Obama hosted a hangout, taking questions about gun violence, math and science, and making computer programming a required high school course.

During Friday's hangout, Hadfield fielded a question about this week's communications failure and how it affected the people onboard the space station.

On Wednesday, NASA engineers were upgrading the space station's command and control software when communications collapsed as they made the transition from the main computer to a backup system to complete the software load.

When the orbiter flew over Russian ground stations, NASA was able to use the stations' antennas to connect with the crew and tell them to connect another computer to restore communications. NASA lost contact with the space station for nearly three hours.

Hadfield, said the astronauts -- orbiting 250 miles above the Earth - didn't panic.

"We trained for many, many years and we've been together as a crew for a while," he noted." We're ready for many things. We worked together as a crew following the procedures as to what to do. The people on the ground were scrambling and working hard... It wasn't panic. We were working together as a team. It's just things that happen in space."


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