FAIRPLAY, Colo. (CBS4) – Students from various schools in Park County studied radio communications and space operations as part of their STEAM curriculum for almost a year before getting the chance to talk to an astronaut on Monday aboard the International Space Station.

(credit: CBS)

“It was amazing,” said Alexa White, 8, a 3rd grade student who asked a question. “It was really cool.”

The Park County Radio Club worked with the Park County Public Libraries to create this opportunity for students in the district. They used the opportunity to teach students about radio technology, mapping the world, math and science.

(credit: CBS)

“They have never been so excited about learning,” Dan Kern, a member of the Radio Club. “It’s very awesome, with all the stuff that’s going on in space.”

Kern and other members from the group setup the proper equipment outside the school and wired it into the gym at South Park High School. They discovered a window around 11:15 a.m. for 10 minutes that they could connect with the ISS.

(credit: NASA)

Astronaut Nick Hague would be able to take questions from students as the space station traveled from Florida to Oregon. Kern says the ISS is moving at almost 292 miles per minute. He says it is the equivalent of traveling from Fairplay to Albuquerque in one minute.

“NA1SS This is Whiskey Zero Whiskey. Over,” Kern said as a test to send a message over to the ISS.

Hague responded as his voice echoed through the gym with a PA system setup by the club. He is one of the astronauts from the U.S. on board the ISS with others from Canada and Russia.

“Whiskey Zero Whiskey. This is November Alpha One,” Hague said. “Copy. Over.”

(credit: CBS)

Students had questions written out and approved by NASA before they made contact. They lined up and asked their questions one after the other as Hague replied to more than a dozen students.

“Hi my name is AJ, what is it first like when you get into space?” asked one student. “How do you like being in space? Over.”

“Hey AJ, that’s a great question,” Hague said. “It’s different than anything else I’ve ever experienced before.”

Questions included topics like the effects of gravity, sleeping in space, and eating habits.

(credit: NASA)

“Hi my name is Bella, how do you drink water in outer space without spilling it?” another student asked.  “Over.”

“Yeah, Bella,” Hague responded. “It’s super hard to do. But luckily it floats up here.”

Other topics students asked included the pressure inside the ISS and if food expires as quickly in space. Hague told the students that the ISS is pressurized as if they were at sea level. He also told them that food expires at the same time as we experience it on earth, but that they go through a sunset and a sunrise every 90 minutes because of the speed which the ISS orbits the planet.

“I love this day, and I wish it could be every day,” White said.

(credit: CBS)

Teachers say students have never been more excited to complete their homework and this experience has sparked their interest in space.

“There’s a whole bunch of things about space that nobody knows and people keep discovering new things,” said Odin Mackey, 11, a 5th grade student who also asked a question.

Kern said it was so rewarding to see the enthusiasm from the students, and he knows they will want to pursue careers in this field because of this experience.

“It’s just a whole new world of science and the kids are really enjoying it,” he said. “Some of the kids say they want to be an astronaut.”

In just nine minutes, several students got the chance to ask questions to Hague. An interaction that lasted only seconds, but could have a lifelong impact on them.

“The coolest thing was basically him answering,” said White. “I was like ‘Oh My Gosh, I’m talking to a real astronaut.’”

Shawn Chitnis

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