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Shuttle/Mir Banner

S/MORE WebChat

Date: November 13, 1996

Featuring: John James
Chief Toxicologist
Johnson Space Center


Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 9:54AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hello - anyone out there to answer questions?

Andrea/NASA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 9:57AM PDT (-0800 GMT) The chat will begin in about five minutes. Today we will talk with John James NASA's Chief Toxicologist, and is responsible for studying chemicals that could harm people in spaceflight and on the ground as well.

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 9:57AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Deborah from the NASA Johnson Space Center - Head, Neuroscience Labs - online to answer questions.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 9:58AM PDT (-0800 GMT) I've got a question, John, are spider plants good to take poisins out of the air?

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 9:59AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Deborah, are you here to replace John?

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 9:59AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Scientists in our labs study how space flight affects eye-head, eye- hand coordination, Posture, locomotion, spatial orientation, and we study space motion sickness.

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:00AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Not that I know of.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:00AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Is it true that over half the astronauts throw up in space?

anonymous: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:01AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi J

Andrea/NASA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:01AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi Deborah - thanks for introducing yourself.

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:02AM PDT (-0800 GMT) No, it is true that about 75% of all astronauts have some symptoms of motion sickness. Probably slightly less than 25% actually vomit.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:02AM PDT (-0800 GMT) If the astronauts were feeling really dizzy after eating lots of M&M's up there, and they had to fly back, could Houston take over, and fly the shuttle back without even having teatonauts at the controls?

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:04AM PDT (-0800 GMT) I've never known anyone to get dizzy from eating M & Ms. There is an autopilot system for the Shuttle, but as far as I know it has never been used.

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:04AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi I'm a little clumsy at this, but I should be ready to answer questions now.

Andrea/NASA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:06AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Welcome John.

Andrea/NASA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:07AM PDT (-0800 GMT) John - a good place to start may be to talk briefly about projects you are currently working on.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:07AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Deborah, I've got a question, this weekend, I got this book that came out, The Highly Sensitive Person. I talks about how 20% of the poplution is very sensitive to sounds, crowded conditions, lights - my guess is that is an astronaut were a "highly sensitive person" the wun'tb be eep at all u hee H araronauts lece to ensure they have the neurological makeup best suited to spacelife?

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:08AM PDT (-0800 GMT) I see my questions was garbled, it should have said they wouldn't be able to sleep at all

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:10AM PDT (-0800 GMT) John, what is the best way to get toxics out of the air? Plants, filters?

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:10AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Some astronauts have a little trouble sleeping the first night or two, but most have no trouble at all. All the astronauts have regular complete physicals, but no special tests of the kind of sensitivity you've been reading about are done.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:12AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Here in California, our school is close to a highway, and we can smell the pollution in the morning. I want to put up spider plants or something, what are the best plants to filter the air?

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:12AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi, there. I'm a bit new at this. I'm wondering what are the basic biologies which go into why a person gets sick in space.

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:12AM PDT (-0800 GMT) OK Andrea...Here Goes: Most recently I have been working with Russian toxicologists and engineers to determine where we have issues on air quality in the Mir Space Station. For example, we have been seeing more formaldehyde than we would like, so the question is where is it coming from. We are also considering expanding our analytical chemistry methods to detect volatile amines, which are produced by humans. These are the compounds that give such a pleasant odor to locker rooms and old spacecraft.

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:13AM PDT (-0800 GMT) John, I read your bio and was happy to read about your bunny. My neighbor has about 7 (in separate cages). I can't picture what you would do day to day. What is your schedule like today? What do you hope to get done this week?

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:14AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi Don, are you a teacher - I'm up at Whisman school in Mt Vw.

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:15AM PDT (-0800 GMT) John, if you find a bad substance, what do you do about it? Do you have to design a filter for it or replace the part or what?

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:15AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Most scientists believe that people get motion sick (car, air, space) when all the information from the different sensory systems doesn't match up. For example, your eyes may be telling you that you are moving, but your inner is says you're sitting still.

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:16AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi Gloria! The best methods to remove pollutants depends on the pollutant. Charcoal filters are good for most pollutants and would work well for most of the chemicals in the air that you can smell. Plants are at best marginally effective.

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:16AM PDT (-0800 GMT) That was supposed to say your inner ear.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:18AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Deborah, I'm trying to apply your theory, I feel motion sick when I get on a swing set. My eyes and body both tell me I'm moving, it all matches up, but I still feel queezy.

Mark Stokes: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:18AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi John - ancillary question to Andrea's. How is air quality maintained in the shuttle and the MIR? Do they use filters (like scrubbers as in Apollo 13), or have new techniques been developed?

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:18AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Deborah (is that what people call you?), I read that you do experiments in Antarctica. What does that have to do with space and your expertise

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:22AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Gloria, It may be that what isn't matching is what your eyes and inner ear are saying about the speed and/or angles of swing motion. Don, The studies we are doing in Antarctica are looking at psychological factors involved in living in confined, isolated and hazardous environments. We study both individual and team factors in small groups as an analog to small groups of astronauts living on the space station for 6 mos or a year.

uhigh 5 grade: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:23AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi how old is your bunny ,jhon?

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:24AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Also, Deborah, have you actually flown in the Vomit Comet? What is it like? I met an interesting fellow at a wedding recently. He was trying to get a group together to rent the KC-135 so a group could go on a joy ride. He said it would cost aboput $2000. Does NASA do that...I read they did for the Apollo 13 movie

ohn at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:25AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi Don- If I see something in spacecraft air that is "bad", the first thing I do is look for a source of the pollutant. For example, when we see too much formaldehyde, we look around for life sciences experiments using formaldehyde fixatives. Normally, such experiments are well contained, but sometimes containment fails and the "bad" stuff get loose. Another cause of bad stuff in the air could be leakage from a system that contains a chemical.

uhigh 5 grade: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:26AM PDT (-0800 GMT) John, are you here

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:28AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Don, Yes I have flown in the Vomit Comet many times, and it's great fun if you don't get sick (luckily I don't). I don't think NASA normally rents out the KC-135. They did do it for the Apollo 13 movie.

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:29AM PDT (-0800 GMT) So Deborah. What is it like to be weightless? Do you have to be strictly business or can you do some sumesaults and stuff? How long can you be weightless for?

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:29AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Are there bad gases that escape from the toilet on the shuttle?

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:30AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Also, Deborah. What about Antarctica? I'll be quiet now and give you a chance to answer.

uhigh 5 grade: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:32AM PDT (-0800 GMT) What kind of " bad stuff" do you find in space John?

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:33AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi Mark- Your question about how spacecraft air is scrubbed is a good one without a simple answer. Some of the Apollo technologies are still used. For example, the lithium hydroxide filter used to scrub carbon dioxide (remember Apollo 13?). Newer technologies involve regenerable sorbent beds that can be dumpped to space.

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:34AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Don, scroll back for the answer to your Antarctica question. It starts with Gloria. I answered here question and yours in the same message. Weightlessness is just like floating. It takes practice moving around effectively, you have a tendancy to want to "swim" and that doesn't work too well. Most of the time it's all business - running experiments etc., but we manage to sneak in a summersault or two.

UHigh LabSchool: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:36AM PDT (-0800 GMT) What do you do during a normal work day? What is your salary? Do you have your own lab? Are you doing something top secret with the CIA?! We are from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and we attend University Lab School on the LSU campus. Our names are Korey Patty,Morgan Field,Boone Tarlton,Henry Anderson, and Meredith Patrick. PEACE!

Mark Stokes: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:36AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Thanks, John. Those are usually the kinds of questions I ask - no simple answers. What is a regenerable sorbent bed?

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:37AM PDT (-0800 GMT) To uhigh..grade 5 Where are you? I find bad stuff inside spacecraft, not space. Bad stuff in spacecraft could be carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, etc.

UHigh LabSchool: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:38AM PDT (-0800 GMT) We have added a new member to our crew. Claire Tonore. Please E- mail us back. PEACE!

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:38AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Mark- The regenerable bed can be a molecular sieve, solid amine, or charcoal.

UHigh LabSchool: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:39AM PDT (-0800 GMT) ARE YOU THERE JOHN?????!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Stokes: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:39AM PDT (-0800 GMT) One last question for John from me: I understand how and from what carbon dioxide and monoxide could occur. What can create formaldehyde?

Hattie in Baton Rouge LA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:40AM PDT (-0800 GMT) When did you first get interested in space? How did you get interested?

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:41AM PDT (-0800 GMT) To UHigh Lab - aren't you the same people that put up something on teh Great Plant Debate? I think I was looking at that part of smore and saw some neat stuff from you

UHigh LabSchool: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:41AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hey John! Us again.We are perticipating in the MIR Plant Project.

Andrea/NASA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:41AM PDT (-0800 GMT) UHigh Lab - Welcome, and Yes - John is here - he is answering questions that have been given earlier. Do you have a more specific question about the work that John is involved with?

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:43AM PDT (-0800 GMT) We were thinking about the Mir plant thing, that looked neat, but we didn't have time. I was disappointed to hear from John that plants don't really clear up the air that much.

Olivia : . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:44AM PDT (-0800 GMT) How many times have you gone to space?

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:44AM PDT (-0800 GMT) UHigh LabSchool: Sorry, I don't tell my salary. Yes, I have a couple of labs. As the head of the Neuroscience labs my normal work day includes some management/administrative duties (the yuk stuff), usually some data collection and/or analysis of my data. I might also review research proposals or manuscripts of completed research that have been submitted to some journal for publication. Sometimes I write manuscripts about my own research or write book chapters about my research.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:44AM PDT (-0800 GMT) What is the Lousianna lab school?

UHigh LabSchool: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:46AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hey, John It's us again. Do you get a lot of questions from people?

Uhigh lab: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:46AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Yes we do Andrea.

Don in Santa Cruz, CA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:46AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Deborah, Sorry I soemhow missed your answer. So studying the folks in antarctica sounds a lot more like psychology then medical stuff. I can't recall reading about that in your background. Is there medical implications?

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:47AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Mark- Now that I look at your question better, I see that my answer wasn't very good. A regenerable bed is one that does not have to be replaced after the bed is full of pollutants. It can be exposed to space vacuum and/or heat to remove the pollutants (hence regenerated) and used again. This is very important to spacecraft because bringing up new filters is very expensive (about $10,000 per pound). Since you ask nonsimple questions, does that mean you want to be a scientist?

Uhigh lab: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:51AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Gloria-The Louisiana Lab school is a school grades K-12. Once we finish most of us go on to college at LSU on campus because it is a continuation of our education.

Gloria from California: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:51AM PDT (-0800 GMT) See you all, time to get back to class

: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:52AM PDT (-0800 GMT) John - thanks for that regeneration clarification. So regeneration basically means releasing the pollutants into space somehow and reusing the bed? No, I don't want to be a scientist, but I'm really interested in how a lot of things in spaceflight work, because, well, it's really interesting! These topics arouse my curiosity.

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:53AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Don, You're right-it's definitely psychology stuff. Our medical operations branch is responsible for astronauts physical and mental health. We do research, pass on what we learn to the doctors so they can do whatever is best for the crew and/or their families. In addition to the medical doctors, we have a psychiatrist and a psychologist. There has been some research (not in the space program) that psychological factors may effect peoples immune responses which could affect their health.

Uhigh lab: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:54AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Gloria-to find out more about our school and class go to http://www.uhigh.lsu.edu

Andrea/NASA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:54AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi all - any last questions before John and Deborah have to leave?

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:56AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Hi Hattie! Don't know if your question was for me or Deborah? I first became interested in space after seeing Saturn through a telescope when I was 7-8 years old. If you have never seen this planet through a telescope, you should. It is well placed for observation in the early evening these days.

Mark Stokes: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:56AM PDT (-0800 GMT) No - thank you for providing interesting information!

UHigh LabSchool: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:56AM PDT (-0800 GMT) The Louisiana Lab School is a K-12 school. It is a small school with only 815 students. We are in the fifth grade. This is a good school and is a lot of fun. Our class has an Online webpage. Do you have a webpage?

Uhigh lab: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:57AM PDT (-0800 GMT) John, one more, whats the longest youve ever been in space?

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:58AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Fare well and thanks for the interest.

Deborah: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:58AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Talk to you next time - thanks for the good questions!

Andrea/NASA: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:59AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Thanks to all - great questions! -- and answers!

John at JSC: . . . . Wed, Nov 13, 10:59AM PDT (-0800 GMT) Uhigh lab- Never been to space, except in my dreams!


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