“What was your favourite food to eat in space?”
This was one of the many questions asked by young people attending Nasa astronaut and molecular biologist Dr Kate Rubins’ presentation at Rotorua Library on Monday afternoon.
Rubins’ answer caused some kids in the crowd of over 100 to gasp in surprise.
“Vegetables,” Rubins said.
“In space, most of what we eat is freeze-dried. So when we get vegetables like lettuce, they taste really good.”
Rotorua was Rubins’ third stop on a tour of the North Island organised by Stem Wana Trust. Rubins also spoke to audiences in Palmerston North and Taupō.
Tonight, Rubins will finish her tour with a presentation at the Tauranga Boys’ College gymnasium which will also feature guests from Women in Space Aotearoa New Zealand, an organisation dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and other gender minorities to work in the sector.
The Tauranga event was originally scheduled to be held at the waterfront on Monday night, but the venue, date and time of the event was changed due to the weather forecast.
In each of her presentations, Rubins spoke about her journey to becoming an astronaut and her experiences in space, and answered questions from the audience.
The astronaut said she was impressed by the “high-level” questions being asked by Kiwi kids at each of the events.
Siblings Lizzy and Jack Cridge had their hands up for most of the question-and-answer session with Rubins, but as they lined up for a photo with their new hero, they thought of one more.
“Do you have to exercise more in space?” Lizzy, 11, said.
“Because of the pull of gravity and being in space, your muscles go like [crazy].”
Jack, 9, said his favourite subject at school was mathematics, and he dreamed of working at Nasa himself one day.
“It’s exciting to learn that a human went to space and survived there for a year,” Jack said.
“And it was surprising that they actually have like proper food that isn’t vacuum-packed. That was really weird.”
Lizzy said she “definitely” wanted to be an astronaut, and her favourite part of Rubins’ presentation was learning about how the International Space Station restocked its supplies.
“How they got the stuff up there, that was pretty cool.”
Also joining the line of spectators wanting to meet the Nasa astronaut face-to-face was Watchdog Security employee Paris Maxwell.
“I heard this was happening maybe three hours ago,” Maxwell told the Rotorua Daily Post.
“They should bring more astronauts to Rotorua.”
Maxwell said when she was younger she was very interested in space and wanted to be an astronaut.
“You never know - if I’d met a real live astronaut when I was a kid, I might be one now.”
At the very least, Maxwell said meeting someone like Rubins when she was younger might have encouraged her to take her childhood goals more seriously.
“It’s good to introduce kids to different job opportunities and show them what’s possible.”