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Astronaut on the ISS speaks with the little patients of Bambino Gesù

Astronaut Col. Villadei conversation with little patients of Bambino Gesu

Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù | Provided

J-P Mauro - published on 01/31/24

The astronauts aboard the ISS conduct important research experiments every day, but the kids were more interested in how they are able to cook pasta.

The little patients of Bambino Gesù, the Italian children’s hospital that has been run by the Vatican since 1924, had a rare opportunity to speak with someone aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Astronaut Colonel Walter Villadei answered the kids’ questions while he floated before the screen.

Astronaut Col. Villadei conversation with little patients of Bambino Gesu

The children gathered in the playroom of the Janiculum headquarters for the conversation that was possible thanks to a collaboration between the Italian Air Force and the Italian Space Agency. Talking with the little patients is just one aspect of the Ax-3 Voluntas mission, which delves into outer space for research purposes

The kids’ eyes were glued to the projection screen where the astronaut floated before the Italian flag. When a girl named Cecilia asked what Earth looked like from space, Col. Villadei explained that it “is extraordinarily beautiful. The blue shades of the oceans and the snow on the peaks of the Himalayas are wonderful. It’s beautiful when you pass over Italy, at night with the lights or even during the day, and you cross it in a moment.”

Astronaut Col. Villadei conversation with little patients of Bambino Gesu

Another inquisitive little one named Sofia asked how big space was. To this, the colonel responded that “space is very large and we have only just begun to explore it.”

He encouraged the kids to follow their interests in space because “some of you will definitely be able to get to the moon or Mars.”

He explained that the research he and the team conduct will help to expand our understanding of biological changes related to health and disease on Earth, experiments to study and attempt to mitigate the physiological toll that space flight takes on humans, as well as pursuing activities Italian experts apply to space activities in a variety of fields. 

Astronaut Col. Villadei conversation with little patients of Bambino Gesu

While these are important goals for the Italian space program, the little patients of Bambino Gesù were much more interested by the smaller, more routine aspects of living in space. They were especially eager to learn what kinds of things astronauts eat and whether or not pasta could be made on the ISS.

Col. Villadei showed the kids special food bags the astronauts use to make and eat the food through straws. He explained that pasta cannot be boiled, but the astronauts have their own way of cooking that requires heating for 30 minutes. 

Hospital President, Tiziano Onesti, who was in the room for the discussion, commented at the end of the video call: 

“Connecting with space was a great emotion for everyone, children and adults. It is nice to be able to offer our hospitalized patients such important occasions, unforgettable experiences that will leave a positive impression on their memory of their stay in the hospital. The care of children and young people also passes through moments like these. We will be happy to welcome Colonel Villadei to the hospital when he returns from his mission.”

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