UPDATE: Marshburn will reconnect with Davidson College campus from 4:15 - 5:30 p.m. April 22 in the C. Shaw Smith 900 Room of the Alvarez College Union.
DAVIDSON - Davidson College administrators, faculty and students gathered this week to speak with NASA astronaut Dr. Tom Marshburn, via video downlink to his home for the last four months, the International Space Station.
Marshburn, while traveling at 17,500 mph above the earth, gave an interesting insight into how his liberal arts education at Davidson prepared him for space exploration.
“Space flight is the epitome of what is important about a liberal arts education,” Marshburn, a class of 1982 graduate, said. “We see this technical absolute wonder that is up here. We see the robotic exploration on Mars and other parts of our solar system and how it relates to humans is the most important part of it.”
Marshburn emphasized how space flight is unique among all types of exploration in that it requires such a technical expertise.
“It really changes the way our world works, when we employ humans as part of our technical accomplishments,” he said. “A liberal arts education is essential for that, and I would attest that it is essential for human survival as well.”
Due to a connection error, those in attendance were able to see and hear Marshburn, while he was not able to hear or see anything from the campus.
Marshburn gave an explanation of the International Space Station layout and answered some of the questions that had been sent to him prior to the downlink.
Marshburn was asked if he ever felt lonely while in the space station.
“I feel like I am surrounded by people,” Marshburn said. “We have control centers all around the world. We get to know the different voices and they become my friends. I have not felt lonely in the least in the entire four months that I have been here.”
He said he doesn’t feel cooped up since the internal volume of the space station is about the same as a five-bedroom house.
“Of course, there is the view out the window that helps out as well,” Marshburn said. “I think it will be a big challenge for people that go to Mars or farther out in orbit, when they look back and don’t have the view of the earth to look at. That will be a big psychological disadvantage I think.”
Marshburn passed the time while waiting for the connection to get fixed by performing zero gravity activities with his microphone, food and water.
“We love to play with our food up here,” Marshburn said. “Being in space is a lot like being a child again. When you arrive here, you have to learn to dress yourself, how to eat your food, how to do everything you are used to on earth.”
Using his drinking water bag, Marshburn created a sphere of water and pushed the floating liquid into his mouth.
“Everyday, I learn something new while I am up here and it’s a lot of fun and very exciting,” he concluded.