Astronaut and UMass graduate Cady Coleman speaks about life in space

Colonel Coleman spent over 4,000 hours in space

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Astronaut and UMass graduate Cady Coleman speaks about life in space

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

(Alvin Buyinza/ Daily Collegian)

By Mack Cooper, Collegian Correspondent

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Retired astronaut Colonel Cady Coleman delivered the annual Commonwealth Honors College Williamson Lecture on Wednesday night where she discussed living on the International Space Station.

Coleman spent over 4,000 hours in space, including two shuttle missions on the space shuttle Columbia and six months aboard the ISS. While in space, Coleman said she participated in a number of experiments on the properties of liquid, combustion and the growth of plants, all of which had to be done in a microgravity environment.

“One problem is figuring out how to do science in space,” Coleman said.

Coleman said that the research done in space has a direct impact on the research conducted on Earth.

“A lot of the research we do in space comes right back to Earth,” Coleman said.

Before becoming an astronaut, Coleman was an undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She then attended UMass Amherst where she studied polymer science in Goessmann Laboratory and Lederle Graduate Research Tower. She then joined the Air Force before being asked to join NASA.

Freshman computer science major Sam DuBois said that it was a “inspiration” knowing that Coleman walked through the same campus and buildings.

“To see someone who has gone to the same college as you, you see someone to look up to,” said DuBois, who also said he looked to Coleman as someone who had achieved the ultimate goal.

While on the ISS, Coleman said she did a number of things beside research and experimentation. She was one of the first people to operate a robotic arm for capturing shuttle delivering supplies and was the smallest person to ever have a spacesuit for space walks, a task which Coleman said is traditionally thought of as a “big guy sport.”

Coleman said she was two inches short of the required height for space walks, so she stuffed tea towels in her boots and claimed she was the right height.

“I said I was 5-foot-6 and they didn’t actually check,” Coleman said.

While aboard the ISS, Coleman, an avid flute player, also got the opportunity to play a duet with the pioneer of the rock flute and member of British rock band Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson.

Another challenge of living on the ISS, according to Coleman, was learning to live beside your fellow astronauts.

“You look around and you are it, so you have to find out how to make the best of it,” Coleman said.

Coleman served on a crew with Russian cosmonaut Dmitri Kondratyev and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli and she said she needed to learn how to live with people with different customs and cultures.

“It takes being brave, and being open,” Coleman said.

But Coleman said that looking at Earth from the perspective of space also changed the way she thought about nationality.

“We are all from there,” Coleman said, showcasing how she viewed Earth from the ISS.

Nicholas Sbalbi, a freshman engineering major said he was interested to see the practical effects that space exploration on Earth.

“It was also interesting how much she talked about teamwork,” Sbalbi said.

Junior environmental science major Callahan Coughlin said that he enjoyed learning from somebody who has actually been to space, especially since Coughlin said “it has always been a childhood dream to be as astronaut.”

Mack Cooper can be reached at [email protected]