During this weekend's SXSW, NASA held a panel in which attendees could ask questions to astronauts aboard the International Space Station and listen to their responses live via Skype.
The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference managed to pull off this year something that hit a logistical roadblock last year: a live conversation with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. John Yembrick, a NASA social media manager, explained that the technology to make this possible is fairly new, and that scheduling issues prevented NASA from pulling this off at least year's SXSW.
Astronauts Rick Mastracchio, Mike Hopkins, and Koichi Wakata agreed to work during their weekend downtime and answer questions from the Saturday morning panel of several dozen attendees, coordinating live via Skype.
Responding to questions, Mastracchio explained that one difference between present and early-day space operations is a matter of recycling. "Now we recycle everything, he said. "Urine, sweat, [it's all] purified and we drink it again. Air is recycled continuously. If we go to Mars, we can't carry all the weight for all the air and water we'll need to get there. It's too heavy."
Hopkins spoke on the subject of errors. "Mistakes are made all the time," he said when asked if he's ever "messed up" or dropped anything. "Hopefully they're minor. We train for this all the time."
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata confirmed that volcanoes can be seen from space. "It's amazing to see air and water vapors coming out of volcanoes," he said.