NASA astronaut, scientist visit patients at Riley Hospital for Children

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind (April 28, 2014)– Pediatric patients got a taste of outer space today when NASA embarked on its latest mission: sending an astronaut and NASA scientist to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

Patients gathered in a playroom for a rare opportunity to learn what it’s like to live and work in space aboard the International Space Station—straight from the experts. Outfitted in her blue flight suit, Dr. Serena Auñón, NASA astronaut, and Liz Warren, NASA scientist, answered children’s questions about their extra-terrestrial line of work, while helping kids assemble paper astronauts, using pipe cleaners, googly eyes and other craft supplies.

After wrapping up a game of air hockey with one young patient, Dr. Auñón signed autographs for the children.

“We hope this gave kids a break in their day, a chance to be kids, and inspire them to go after their dreams – whether that dream is to become a writer, doctor or even an astronaut,” said Dr. Auñón.

“I saw some pretty big smiles,” said Warren, who is also operations lead for the International Space Station Medical Project.

The NASA team then met with physician-scientists from Riley at IU Health and the Indiana University School of Medicine to discuss research opportunities aboard the International Space Station. Warren explained the potential earthly benefits of conducting research in a microgravity environment, which could also someday benefit pediatric patients. Dr. Auñón, meanwhile, shared learnings on how human health is impacted by living in and traveling to space.

The day’s events were part of “Destination Station,” NASA’s national, traveling awareness campaign designed to shed light on activities and opportunities aboard the International Space Station. Indianapolis is one of only three U.S. cities “Destination Station” will hit in 2014. Riley at IU Health is the only Indiana hospital it will land on while in town.

“It was great spending time with the kids,” said Dr. Auñón. While kids are also eager to hear about research projects in space, the most pressing question they often have for Dr. Auñón is: “Where are all the aliens?!”