4th-8th-Graders will make contact with astronauts on International Space Station during first week of March
In an extremely rare and once-in-a lifetime opportunity, Buffalo public school students will make contact with astronauts on the International Space Station, asking questions they've been eager to know the answers to, such as: "What types of activities do you do in space to keep yourself healthy?" "How does the space station avoid space debris and other natural satellites while in orbit?" And, "What is your opinion of the future of space exploration in collaboration with other nations?"
The chance to talk to astronauts presently living aboard the International Space Station is a rare learning opportunity: Schools and educational institutions all over the world apply for the privilege, and must submit a detailed proposal to NASA up to a year in advance seeking contact.
The National Urban Alliance for Effective Education submitted a grant proposal on behalf of Harvey Austin Elementary School PS97 last year. The school was chosen among only a handful of other sites, and now, working with the NUA, Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium at SUNY Buffalo State, and the Lancaster Amateur Radio Club, select fourth-through-eighth-grade students will participate in a 10-15 minute Q&A session with an astronaut via amateur radio on SUNY Buffalo State's campus during the first week of March.
Arranging contact between Earth and orbiting space vehicles is an incredibly complicated endeavor. The specific date and time of the transmission from the ISS debris, spur-of-the-moment specific NASA tasks, and/or last minute changes in astronaut schedules means the Q&A dates and times are fluid.
Astronauts aboard the ISS are performing advanced research inside the orbital laboratory to improve life on Earth and for future space residents. The crewmembers - Sergey Volkov, Mikhail Kornienko, Timothy Kopra, Timothy Peake and Yuri Malenchenko - are working alongside U.S. astronaut and engineer Scott Kelly. Kelly's identical twin, Mark, also an astronaut, is performing similar activities as his brother, but on Earth, to better understand how the human body reacts to the atmosphere and conditions in space. The Kellys are the first set of twins to space travel.
To prepare for the contact with these space explorers, the students at PS97 are engaged in a STEM-intensive curriculum, learning about NASA research aboard the ISS, investigating college careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and learning about amateur radio and public speaking from the Lancaster Amateur Radio Club.
Before, during and after the event, students will be exposed to NASA research, college career investigations and amateur radio operations to encourage them to voice their thoughts, raise questions and explore ideas.
"These experiences will support not only New York standards-based curriculum, but promote career investigations and the natural creativity and curiosity that children innately hold; building on the strengths and interests of these bright and curious students," said Eric J. Cooper, president and founder of the NUA, which helped spearhead this rare contact between a public school and astronauts in space. "The contact and experience with SUNY Buffalo State, amateur radio operators, NASA, the ISS and astronauts will not only enrich the students and school, but the community as a whole."