Travelling at 23,000 kilometres per hour in the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield reached out to over 450 South Okanagan students on Friday.
Using the telebridge network, students from all over the South Okanagan got to ask questions via ham radio as part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program.
Hadfield fielded questions for 11 minutes live from the International Space Station to a packed gymnasium at Uplands Elementary School before contact was lost.
“I thought this was really cool because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Ryan Edge, a Grade 3 student in Penticton. “I got to talk to a real live astronaut.”
Penticton resident and amateur radio enthusiast Brian Edge helped bring the experience of a lifetime together for the students. Through a fellow ham radio operator in Nova Scotia, Brian heard there was an opportunity to be part of the ARISS program.
“I wanted to do this to inspire kids. Chris Hadfield wasn’t much older than some of these kids when he first saw the spacewalk on the moon and he knew at that point he wanted to be an astronaut,” said Edge.
“Through education and working hard at school anything is possible down the road. These will be the future space travellers, some of these kids possibly.”
Hadfield, who came through a little scratchy at first, fielded questions related to what life was like on the ISS, the science behind some of the space station, to things like how his guitar works in space and what is the most beautiful part of the world he has viewed from space.
“Well I could say Penticton but the most beautiful part of the world to me are the Bahamas. The coral reef around the Bahamas because they are huge and beautiful and all colours of blue and green, it is just gorgeous. I love looking at the Bahamas,” said Hadfield.
The process to connect with Hadfield started in January and school officials and those involved in putting it together were elated with how it all worked out.
ARISS Canada is a volunteer program aimed at inspiring students worldwide to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math through amateur radio communications opportunities. During Expedition 34/35, ARISS Canada hopes to establish over 15 amateur radio contacts between Hadfield and young Canadians across the nation. Uplands was the first in B.C.
Penticton resident Patricia Tribe, who has close ties with the space program from the time she worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Tex, was also enlisted to help bring Hadfield to the students.
“This is fantastic. It is really neat to have the contact with Chris and for the kids to be able to talk live to somebody that is orbiting the planet. That is just amazing and just gives me goosebumps to say that,” said Tribe.
“But what is really, really spectacular is all the kids that are coming from the different schools and this school are doing a lot of educational build up to this and so they are learning about space, learning about science concepts, taking the theme of space and doing art, and there is a lot more than just the contact and that is what is super exciting for us.”