SpaceX Engineer Takes Nursery on a Journey into Space

“Does it get to be morning time in space?”

Nursery students with questions like this had the opportunity to ask an expert when Neel Nayak, a Senior Structures Engineer at SpaceX, visited during their virtual joint Nursery A and B morning meeting on Friday, May 29, 2020. The next day, SpaceX, a private aerospace company, and NASA made history with the launch of the Crew Dragon capsule using a Falcon 9 rocket. It is the first time American astronauts have launched from domestic soil since 2011 and once the mission is completed, the vehicle will be certified to regularly transport people to space.

Nayak, who has worked at SpaceX for 10 years, is the uncle of Shayaan M. ‘34, a student in Shirley Dayes’ Nursery B class. Nayak works on the Crew Dragon vehicle that launched on Saturday as a member of the parachute system team that brings the astronauts safely back to earth. His informative and engaging presentation sparked the imaginations of students, teachers, and families.

“I want to talk to you about flying in outer space,” Nayak said. “When you look at the sky at night, what kinds of things do you see?” A chorus of voices answered, “Stars, the moon!”

“There is also a really big spaceship up there,” Nayak said. “This spaceship is called the International Spaceship or ISS.” The ISS is a really big science lab, he explained, and because there is no gravity, scientists from many countries go there to do experiments.

Nayak talked about gravity and shared videos of astronauts floating in space. He explained how rockets are used to get to the ISS and told the children they can watch the launch of the two SpaceX astronauts, “Bob and Doug.”

“Shayaan told me you have been doing experiments with baking soda and vinegar, but look at what happens when you do the same experiment in space,” Nayak narrated a video of a floating blob. “It looks totally different.”

“That’s really cool!” said Shayaan.

When Nayak asked if there were any questions, the children knew to unmute themselves. “How long do people stay in the space station?” asked one. A few have stayed as long as a year, Nayak explained. Someone wanted to know how the astronauts get home after splashing down in the ocean and why they need a parachute for reentry. “What happens if they run out of gas?” another asked.

“These are really great questions,” he said.

And does it get to be morning in space? “Because you are going so fast up there, it is only an hour and a half long in space,” Nayak explained.

Thank you for sharing your uncle with Poly, Shayaan!