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:
Very good questions, I thought.
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?
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): http://asp.crewtags.com/VOI/ISS%20MAY%2016%202007/ISS_003_2007_05_16.mp3