The position of aerospace educator lasts for two years; Jackson is finishing her second year and will return to Loudoun County, Virginia public schools, where she teaches special education classes. Fahy, who teaches elementary school in Fairfax County, is just beginning her second year.
In the lab, Fahy asks the students to speculate about what a change in air pressure would do to a pilot’s lungs. To demonstrate such a change, she puts a Marshmallow Peep inside a vacuum chamber. As she pumps the air out of the chamber, the Peep expands dramatically.
“It’s going to explode!” yell the students. “Can we eat it?”
“No, these are Peeps in the name of science,” says Fahy. “We can’t eat these.” As she releases air back into the chamber, the Peep shrivels, then does a wild somersault.
“OK, how’s it look?”
“Deflated,” comes the response. “Like an old person,” a student adds helpfully.
The experiment allows Fahy to talk about flightsuits and spacesuits, pressurized airplane cabins, even “the bends,” the decompression sickness divers experience.
After discussing thrust and drag, Fahy has the students select items for a survival kit, part of a test created by NASA.
“Imagine you’ve crash-landed on the moon,” says Fahy. “It’s going to take three to five days for a rescue mission to get to you. What do you need to survive in space?”
The students work in teams, quickly discarding the compass, parachute, and matches in favor of oxygen, water, and food.