What is it like to be an astronaut on the International Space Station?
Fort Belvoir Elementary School students found out during a radio chat with astronaut Dr. Koichi Wakata of Japan, who talked with students from the ISS Feb. 19.
The ISS chat was coordinated through a grant from Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, known as ARISS, arranged through the FBES STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program and partnership with Marymount University.
The event was a unique opportunity for FBES students, since there are only about 30 ARISS contacts in the U.S. per year, according to a Marymount University press release.
About 20 students in first to sixth grade asked questions about life in space, from what it feels like to the types of missions astronauts have.
“I asked ‘What was it like to be on the outside of the space station with your space suit on?’” said Avril Moyer, 11. “I wanted to know what it was like to go flipping around in space.”
“I thought it was really cool and kind of unbelievable, since they are really far away,” she added.
The ISS was about 17,500 miles away during the 10-minute radio contact.
Sixth-grader Collin Peterson, 11, asked Wakata what would happen to a football if he threw it while aboard the ISS.
“He said it would go to the wall and just bounce off and it would still float. That would be really cool,” Peterson said.
During the chat, the students could watch the space station’s progress as it orbited the earth, projected on a video screen.
The radio contact with space underscored the importance of science, technology, engineering and math for the students, said Kara Fahy, FBES STEM resource teacher.
“This is an amazing opportunity,” she said. “The International Space Station is an amazing example of STEM in action. Students are learning about the problems that astronauts need to solve.”
It was especially beneficial for sixth grade students, who have been studying astronomy and working on space-related projects for the past few months, Fahy said, including designing heat shields for a space craft, practicing using an amateur radio, and building repair parts for the ISS using Legos.
They even used a robotic arm in the classroom to assemble a model of the ISS, she said.
Marymount math and science education students have been working with FBES students to prepare them for the space contact as well, as they accumulate student teaching hours.
One Marymount graduate student, Jessica Idol, said she was excited to watch the students share a moment of history in the making.
“It’s exciting for me because I know that when I was little, I would have loved to do this,” Idol said. “They’re so excited and proud. This is something that they’ll be able to tell their kids about.”
Dr. Usha Rajdev, Marymount professor of education and Dr. Eric Bubar, Marymount assistant professor of physics, helped FBES apply for the ARISS grant.
“It brings the science alive,” Bubar said. “They get to talk to these people that are in space, and that’s going to inspire them hopefully to want to go into space as well and invest in that kind of career. It really focuses them on STEM disciplines, which it really important.”
ARISS is a cooperative venture of NASA, the American Radio Relay League, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation and other international space agencies that schedule radio contact between astronauts and schools, according to a press release on the event from Marymount University. The radio contact is one of several STEM education activities focused on spaceflight, organized by Teaching from Space, a NASA Education office.
For more information on the event, visit the Marymount University website at www.marymount.edu/newsEvents/newsDetails.aspx?Channel=Channels/Site%20 Wide%20Content&WorkflowItemID=7702f98a-4c66-45b4-8bae-78783d01049c.