To testify before Congress, you don’t actually have to be in the room.
That’s the case for NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station, who have occasionally beamed into congressional hearings via satellite.
On Wednesday, Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren appeared before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. And, as in previous hearings, lawmakers’ questions sounded like what parents ask their kids during their first semester of college: What are you eating? Are you staying healthy? Are you making friends with the Russians? (Seriously. Brian Babin, a Republican congressman from Texas who is also a dentist, asked the astronauts about their oral health.)
Kelly and Lindgren, appearing on a large screen in a Rayburn hearing room, bobbed up and down, their arms crossed or planted on their hips or in pockets to keep them from floating upward in the zero-gravity environment.
Representative Donna Edwards, a Democrat from Maryland, asked Kelly and Lindgren about the vegetables they’re growing aboard the orbital station, which include lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, and Chinese cabbage. The ability to produce food thousands of miles from Earth is crucial for longer space missions—like one to Mars, which Kelly said he believes is possible by 2033. But for now, it’s mostly a comfort, said Kelly, for astronauts who can’t experience nature on the ISS.