News / Science & Technology

    Students on Class Trip 'Visit' Space Station Astronauts

    Astronauts aboard the International Space Station spoke with Washington, D.C. middle school students on Tuesday about what it is like to live and work in space.

    It was not a typical class trip.

    More than 100 students gathered in an auditorium at the Department of Education for an out of-this-world experience.  Row upon row of students, ranging from about 10 to 13 years of age looked straight ahead.      

    It started with some space trivia questions, prompting students to eagerly raise their hands.

    QUESTIONER:  "Now, what year did we launch STS [i.e., Space Transportation System] 1 -- the first space shuttle?  You weren't alive!  Was it 1979, 1981 or 1983?  Let's see, right here."
    STUDENT:  "1981."
    QUESTIONER:  "It was 1981.  You guys are good!  [APPLAUSE  Fade Under TEXT Below]"   

    But the real draw for these students was the chance for them to ask questions of three NASA astronauts who are living on the International Space Station.  The astronauts appeared on a big screen in the auditorium, live via a video link.  An empty white space suit floated behind the trio in near-zero gravity, like an observer.  

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke into the microphone that the students would use to ask questions of the astronauts.  After a short delay, NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock responded from aboard the orbiting laboratory.

    DUNCAN:  "Station, this is Arne Duncan, and we have some fantastic students here from Deal Middle School and Hart Middle School . . .
    WHEELOCK:  "We have you loud and clear.  Welcome aboard the International Space Station."

    At least one student's jaw dropped in excitement.  Many craned their necks, eager to get a better view.  Some snapped photos of the screen showing Commander Wheelock and fellow astronauts Shannon Walker and Scott Kelly.

    Then the questions, written in advance with their teachers' seals of approvals, began.

    STUDENT 1:  "What kind of research are you working on, and how will it help us understand our planet and the universe?"
    STUDENT 2:   "How do you communicate with other crew members if people are from different countries?"
    STUDENT 3:  "What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen from space?"
    STUDENT 4:  "What inspired you to become an astronaut?"
    STUDENT 5:  "Do you feel like your job is dangerous?"

    The astronauts answered each question, after about a five-second delay.

    WHEELOCK:  "We have at any one given time over 130 experiments going on onboard.  We're studying the Earth, studying space, studying our bodies and our bodies' reactions to being in space."
    WALKER:  "One thing we have to do is learn different languages.  Another thing is we generally speak English aboard the space station.  But I can assure you, when I was studying in Russia to be the co-pilot of the Soyuz, I had to learn the Russian language so I could communicate with the Russian control center in Russian."
    WHEELOCK: "We actually had a night where the moon was full and the sun was coming up, and we had this beautiful aurora, and the moon was shining off the aurora, as was the sun, the rising sun.  And so it was pretty dramatic and just a beautiful, beautiful picture."
    KELLY:  "When I was a kid, it was definitely something I was interested in.  Well, you know, flying in space is somewhat dangerous.  You know, we're flying around the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour [28,000 kilometers per hour] in an almost near vacuum."    

    NASA and the Department of Education say the goal of the event was to show students the value of studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

    Walter, an 11 year-old student who has received top marks in math and science, got the message. "Well, it kind of inspired me to move on to greater things than I thought I could achieve," he said.  

    Walter says he might want to be an astronaut after seeing what he thought were amazing things.  

    "In outer space, they took like the 335-pound [152 kilogram] space suit and they picked it up since there was no gravity.  That was kind of cool!," he said.

    Eleven-year-old Emily says the coolest things she saw were pictures of our own planet that astronauts have taken from orbit.  A particularly memorable one showed a heart-shaped island in bright blue water.      

    "It was just, like, it seemed just unreal in a way like that -- how close up and just how amazing it is to see from the outside," she said.    

    It might be a view that some of these students will see for themselves.  More than a dozen hands shot into the air when the students were asked whether they wanted be one of the astronauts who will visit Mars one day.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.