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Astronaut speaks about his experiences in space
Posted April 21, 2008

Captain Robert Gibson spoke at the Chino Airport Planes of Fame Museum Friday about his experiences with NASA, his interactions with the Russians aboard the space station Mir and about life aboard the space vessel.

Around 30 people attended lecture.

“He was terrific,” said Bob Velker, who visits the museum on a regular basis. “Around 80 percent of what he said was interesting and new to me.”

Also featured at the museum were banners hanging for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum exhibit.

Gibson, who was born on October 30, 1946, had a distinguished career as a naval officer and became a NASA astronaut before he retired.

During his speech, Gibson showed pictures of weather anomalies such as hurricanes and cold fronts, which were clearly visible from the high altitudes of space. He also presented photographs of cities such as Paris, which Gibson said they had a hard time photographing because every time they passed over Paris, it was covered with clouds. When the weather conditions finally allowed for a photograph of the city, they used a telescopic lens to take a picture that includes the Eiffel Tower among other landmarks.

“He was really knowledgeable,” Victor Grandier said. He was with his son Philip at Gibson’s speech.

The Aurora Borealis could also have been seen from space as ribbons of green light and other colors from the orbit of space.

“NASA wouldn’t bother calling us when we were passing over the Aurora,” Gibson said. “They knew we wouldn’t answer while we were all looking at it.”

Among the other photographs he had taken from space, he pointed out the Rocky Mountains, the ring of glaciers around Iceland and one photo that particularly stood out of a sun rising over the horizon with an orange glow.

During the speech, Gibson answered many questions, including one asked by a member of the audience about when he first landed back on Earth after the mission.

“When we touched down, I couldn’t move my leg,” Gibson said. “I looked down to see what it was caught on, and there wasn’t anything.” Gibson added that the human body makes a lot of adjustments while in space.

Gibson also gave some interesting information concerning the body in space. For every month that a person is in orbit, they lose 1-2 percent of their total calcium. According to Gibson, the human skeletal structure supports itself with enough calcium to withstand Earth’s gravity, but in space, it adjusts for the zero gravity environments by getting rid of it.

“Your body spends all of its time on Earth, and when its put into a foreign environment, it goes, ‘Look, I don’t need any of this… time to get rid of it',” said Gibson.

Gibson also talked about his docking mission with the Russian space station Mir, and how he interacted with the crew aboard it as well as about the picture of him shaking hands with Vladimir Dezhurov.

“Russians believe that shaking hands over a threshold is bad luck,” Gibson said. “I had to crawl a bit so we can shake hands.”

Gibson also added, “There are some who believe that the Cold War ended when I shook hands with Vladimir.”

The Smithsonian National Air and Museum exhibit was also featured in the form of banners in the entrance of the museum, displaying the cockpits of many different airplanes such as the SR-71A Blackbird, the F-85A Sabre and the famous Boeing B-29 Super Fortress, the Enola Gay.

Dan Sayles can be reached at dsayles@ulv.edu.