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What does astronaut think of meteor?

HOUSTON — “Things have been crazy,” said NASA astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman of Shelburne on Friday afternoon in Houston, as she practiced for her Symphony Hall performance later that night and fielded a few questions about meteorites, like the one that hit Russia, and the asteroid that was expected to come close to Earth.

When asked if she had experienced anything in outer space like either the meteorite strike or the close encounter with the asteroid, Coleman replied: “We didn’t have anything like that when I was up there” on the International Space Station.

Coleman, who has a home in Shelburne Center, spent 159 days in outer space, living on the Space Station, about 225 miles from the Earth. The space station orbited the Earth, taking Coleman and fellow astronauts roughly 63 million miles during their time on board. Although no asteroids or large meteorites came close to the space station, Coleman said that the astronauts “do think about that kind of thing” and “we are very careful to have, on the space station, layers, like on onion, to protect us if a very small meteorite hits the station.”

“We’re living on the space station, but we’re getting ready to go further with these orbits, which means we’re probably going to land with people on an asteroid, or on the moon or both.” She said the close approach of the asteroid may “give us as a better chance to study it.”

During her NASA career, Coleman has had a chance to study meteorites. She said she participated in a 2 1∕2 month expedition in Antarctica collecting meteorites.

Coleman, a University of Massachusetts Amherst graduate, is married to Shelburne glass artist Josh Simpson. She has been with NASA since 1992 and her work has included a five-day mission to deploy the $1.3 billion Chandra X-ray Observatory in 1999.

In December 2010, Coleman and her international colleagues traveled on a Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station, where they were stationed until May of 2011.

An amateur musician, Coleman brought two flutes with her into space and was to play with the Houston Symphony and Ireland’s The Chieftains Friday night.

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