Is Conversation Better in Space?

Two spacewalks down, one to go.

The Space shuttle Atlantis construction team of Steve MacLean and Dan Burbank spent the second spacewalk on the STS 115 mission taking care of business on space station construction. They loosened 243 bolts, and one got away. One bolt took a little extra torque to loosen -- like the lug nuts on your wheels that are tough to get off when you need to change a tire.

In Mission Control, astronaut Pam Melroy asked how many astronauts does it take to loosen a bolt? Three, she said -- two outside on the spacewalk and one inside.

MacLean and his spacewalking partner Burbank finished their task in 7 hours and 11 minutes. Clearly, they missed lunch, but one hopes their crewmates inside the shuttle were warming up dinner for them.

MacLean swears conversation is better in space than on earth.

"When you are inside the space station, to look out the window and see the earth, those are the best dinner conversations you will ever have," he said. "It's phenomenal."

Why would dinner conversation be better in space? MacLean explains it this way.

"When you fly in space, number one, you are so relaxed because you're in zero G [gravity]," he said. "Every single muscle in your body goes into this relaxed state, which on it's own is worth the trip to space. Second, you're a happy camper because you're doing something you love. Third, I think people feel smarter, or they feel more intellectually engaged, perhaps, is a way to say that, and it just makes the dinner conversation around the table fascinating."

Bonded By Shared Experiences -- and Weightlessness

STS 115 Commander Brent Jett says he won't disagree with MacLean.

"He's a Ph.D. I'm not going to argue with him," he said. "Every time I argue with Steve I lose, so I'll go along with his premise, and maybe try to offer a reason. You've gone through such an intense experience. Every day in space, there's some new experiences all these new events require a lot of intensity and hard work. So I think when you go through those experiences and you get a chance at the end of the day to sit down and have a meal together -- it's just natural now, you want to talk about it."

"You want to express yourself," Jett continued. "You want to relax. ... And so I think that tends to generate a lot of conversation a lot of folks talking about how they felt emotionally during the day."

Is it the experience of being weightless, or the camaraderie of sharing an experience that is limited to very few people -- that makes the banter better? Jett says it is the exhilaration of being in space.

"I think it's the fact that the experience is so intense, so I think it brings out a lot of intense conversation and emotion," he said.

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn Piper completed one space walk and has another scheduled later this week. She thinks MacLean's dinner conversation theory is fascinating, but as a first time flyer, she said she was going to wait and see. She told ABC News there was one thing she was sure would be packed into her carryon bag.

"Chocolate. I won't leave home without chocolate," she said.

What was on the menu for Wednesday? Jett selected cream of mushroom soup, lasagna and shortbread cookies. MacLean ordered hot and sour soup, curry sauce with vegetables and banana pudding for desert. And the conversation was set to flow.