St Teresa’s school in Featherston has more than the usual number of aspiring astronauts after 21 pupils became the first ever in New Zealand to contact the International Space Station, NASA, in November.
With the help of local amateur radio enthusiasts and ham radio, the pupils conversed with space station commander Mike Fincke during a 10-minute interval when the station was over Australia. A large group of parents and supporters watched on a large screen in the room as the space station moved across Australia during the November 20 rendezvous in space.
Using one of the questions submitted a year ago, Logan asked him, ‘How far is it from earth in kilometres?’ He replied, ‘We’re on the International Space Station, we’re about 360 kilometres above the earth, travelling about 26,000 kilometres an hour, which is very fast by the way.’
The children fired questions at the space station’s commander on all the big issues such as what does your bedroom look like and what do you sleep on.
‘What does your bedroom look like?’ asked Madeline, and Mike replied that sleep in space is really fun. ‘I have a sleeping bag and I just tie it on to the wall of my little bedroom.’
The space station in real time orbits the earth every 90 minutes which gave the children just 10 minutes to get through their chat. To make sure the mission would be a success, NASA insisted that their questions be submitted a year ago.
But it was a close enough encounter to leave the students with their heads in the stars as they headed off home. The following day many of the students returned to school wanting to become astronauts. Teaching about space will never be the same after this experience. We are appreciative of the support we received from the local amateur radio society.
Images: Top: Space wannabe, 12-year-old Logan van de Loo – ‘how far is it? – in an interview with NASA astronaut, Mike Fincke, on the International Space Station. Radio ham, Peter Nordon, looks on.
Above: Madeline Anderson, 8, of St Teresa’s School in Featherston, chatting to NASA astronaut Mike Fincke using ham radio.