Today was a pretty special day for the students, teachers, families and friends of Essex Heights Primary School. Because today, at 6:35PM, eleven of the students got a 10-minute window of opportunity to talk to a real astronaut, Jeffrey Williams, while he was flying by in the International Space Station (ISS).
Not something that is part of your everyday curriculum.
A few weeks ago, Kai came home with the announcement that he would like to enter into a school competition to talk to an astronaut. Talk to an astronaut? Yeah. Ask him a few questions and such. Is he coming to school? No, he’s on the ISS…
Our interest was peaked. Turns out that almost a year ago, Luka’s 3rd grade teacher had set the wheels in motion for this event. And this competition was only one step in a long list of items to get everything organised.
All this culminated in an hall tonight, filled with interested students and family, local press and a lot of technology.
The technology side of things was made possible through the work of a group of amateur radio operators, ARISS. The owner of the radio antenna (and the antenna itself) were in Southern Australia, and the host in Adelaide.
Due to the speed of the ISS, there was a window of ten minutes to talk to the astronaut. So everything was well rehearsed and scripted, to make the most use of the available time. The eleven students had prepared ahead of time and because of that, they each got to ask both of their prepared questions.
Even though the answers were sometimes hard to understand, it was a cool experience. To think that you are talking live to someone flying more than 400km above your head is pretty awesome. And for the students (and teachers) it was definitely a lesson they will not soon forget.