Astronauts take a quick break to chat

SPACE SHUTTLE ATLANTIS

Wayne Freedman: "Hey it looks like you're set up and your hair is nicely combed."

For us, the day offered one of those rare opportunities. We got a live, exclusive interview, due partly to Astronaut Rex Walheim being from San Carlos. Yesterday, he made the first of three space walks, installing a ten ton addition to the international space station.

ABC7's Wayne Freedman: "Can you compare this with construction work on earth in a high rise? Or is it a different experience?"

Rex Walheim: "It is like high tech construction work because you're sitting on a girder and sometimes you look down, and go wow!! You see how high and fast you're going."

They even had a floating little ball they were tossing around in zero gravity.

"This is a loan from the people here on the space station. They have a few things they've collected over the years. They're great for showing what it's like in microgravity," says Walheim.

We learned that astronauts get to bring along a few small personal items which will become valuable, having flown in space. Those include a magnetic compass and a meteorite, which will be first to enter the atmosphere twice. In Walheim's case, we could see some signs he flashed to his family on NASA's closed circuit before launch.

Rex Walheim: "I told them to watch TV. I hadn't told them what was on there, so I think they knew it might have been coming, but the boys were surprised."

ABC7's Wayne Freedman: "You saved those signs, I would imagine?

Rex Walheim: "I did."

Once, they were scrap paper – now they're heirlooms.

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