Ever wonder what children on the other side of the globe wonder about? I’m physics educator, with the Peace Corps' Let Girls Learn Program in Guinea, West Africa, and  an introduction to our space unit, I asked my students to come up with questions to submit to Joe Accaba, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and astronaut who is currently orbiting earth in the International Space Station. My students have never seen images of rocket launches or movies about space, since they have little or no access to electricity or  internet. Most of them have never even seen an airplane, let alone flown in one. The idea that humans could land on the moon is completely alien to them.

When I told them we could send questions to an actual human orbiting earth, they bombarded me with questions, bursting with curiosity and excitement. How did he get there? Who has he met? Does he eat rice? It was a great reminder of the educational motivation for continued human presence in space.

We hope that Joe will answer our questions over video chat, but if not I will cover them in class. In the meantime, enjoy the unrestrained curiosity of 20 West African students age 10-17. Hopefully someday they will have the opportunity to respond to these questions from space themselves.

  • Why did you go there? What are you looking for? Mamadou, age 14
  • To leave earth for the moon do you take a bike or what? Douago, age 12
  • What did you bring with you? Mamadou, age 13
  • We farm here. Do you farm there? Safiatou, age 13
  • Are people in your town black or white? How do you go to school? Mamady, age 13
  • Is it hot or cold? Kalil, age 13
  • Is it night or day? Mamadou, age 13
  • What have you met in space? Fatoumata, age 14
  • How did we discover the sun? Aminata, age 16
  • What is the moon made of? Abigaile, age 16
  • How do you sleep in space? How do you go to the bathroom? Cathy, age 10
  • Who invented physics? Mamadou, age 17 
  • After earth, where will we live? Why isn’t life possible on all the planets? Alpha, age 17
  • Are there dead people there? Do people die in space? Mamadou, age 16
  • Is there sun? Is there light? Issa, age 13
  • Is there rain in space? Mamadou, age 14
  • Do you eat rice there? Ibrahim, age 13
  • Does everything we find on earth exist in space? Can all people live there? If yes, explain. If no, why? Sané, age 14
  • Is it pretty? Can we talk to you? Ramatoulaye, age 12  
  • Are you alone out there? Mamadou, age 13

Ensuring sustainable human presence in space through programs like the recently enacted Space Policy Directive not only advances exploration of this boundless frontier, but also inspires millions of young people globally to discover, learn, and build. Space travel connects us to our fundamental curiosity about the universe. And that, I’ve learned, is universal.

Peace Corps has partnered with NASA in an international space exchange among students around the world. Host communities can be selected for a live streamed conversation with Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joe Accaba, speaking directly from the Space Station. The conversation will focus on STEM education and intercultural exchange.