Wednesday, May 16, 2007

International Space Station Contact Results

Yesterday, May 16, students (4th -6th graders) at the Emmett Idaho Kenneth J. Carberry Intermediate School carried on a successful conversation with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The signal was carried over local repeaters so much of southern Idaho could listen in. Local amateur radio volunteers, such as myself, were positioned with radio equipment at other local schools so that other students could listen in. The early count was over 2000 students listening to the contact. What a great day for science.

I was positioned at Ponderosa Elementary School in Meridian Idaho. I had 40 kindergarten students in attendance (2 classes). The students were amazingly well behaved and intent on listening to the Q&A between the students in Emmett and the astronaut aboard the space station.

The students in Emmett asked the following questions:
  • If NASA can stop bone loss in astronauts in space, can they stop it on earth, too?
  • As we continue to explore, where should we set up our next base---the moon or Mars, and why?
  • Is controlling Canadarm 2 like playing the Gamecube or is it more high tech?
  • If two objects of different masses are in orbit, will the larger mass attract the smaller?
  • If you need to check outside for problems, what do you use?
  • Has any spacecraft been hit by space debris?
  • How many different food choices do you have for lunch?
  • How do you determine the mass of an object in space?
  • Would fish be able to live and swim in microgravity?
  • Do you ever get to talk to your family? If so, how often?
  • Is NASA using anything besides exercise to stop bone loss?
  • What abilities should you have before applying to be an astronaut?
  • What do you miss about Earth that you can’t have on the ISS?
  • If you take a partially inflated balloon outside the station, what will happen to it?
  • If a small object hits the station, what would you do?
  • Very good questions, I thought.
    After the session was over, my class of 40 kindergartners hit me with about 40 questions. Many I could answer from my science background, many from previous reading about the ISS, some from listening to other school contacts (via a podcast), and some not at all. One early question was how do they start the rocket. I explained it was like starting a fire with a match, they use sparks to ignite the fuel in the rocket. One of the kids corrected me saying that they press a button. I think we were both correct. They asked how the astronauts go up on the roof, how they eat, why they float in the air, etc. It was a valuable exercise for me to explain complex science in a way that a kindergartner could understand. Like I said, it was a good day for science.

    Here is the local TV coverage of the event: Emmett students speak to astronaut via ham radio.
    Local newspaper coverage: Ever talk to someone in outer space? Students in Emmett did.
    Downloadable Audio (10 minutes):


    Anonymous said...

    I wanted to share with you how excited the kids were when they came back to school today. They couldn't stop talking about what they heard yesterday. I wasn't sure if they woul grasp the importance of what they were listening to, but I think they did! All they wanted to talk about today was space and rockets! It was wonderful to listen to. I know I was moved by what I was listening to. When they said hello Idaho. I got goose bumps and I kept reminding myself where they were. It was very amazing! Thank you for giving my students the opportunity to be a part of something so important. I don't think they will forget it! I know I won't!!

    wolf21m said...

    Hayley, It was a fun event and I am glad that the students got so much out of it. I learned quite a bit myself.