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'It’s a cool experience': North Bay students speak to astronaut in space

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Grade 8 students at West Ferris Secondary School had an out-of-this-world experience Monday morning speaking with an astronaut who is currently orbiting Earth on board the International Space Station (ISS).

"It’s going to be fun talking to them. I’ll be nervous," said student Silvianna Stewart.

"But it’s a cool experience. I’m glad I get to enjoy it."

While waiting for the call to link up, the students only heard static. Then a successful linkup connected with the space station and on the other end of the line was Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is currently on board.

Using a relay station in Belgium to transmit the long-distance call, the contact lasted for about 15 minutes and students had a chance to ask questions about Wakata’s time in space and his daily trip around the Earth.

Grade 8 student Daoshil Patel is interested in science and space exploration. He had a chance to ask Wakata about his time as an astronaut.

"I’d want to feel how it would be on that kind of experience," Patel said.

"I will get to hear what it feels like to be an astronaut."

Wakata first became an astronaut in 1993. His first mission off-world occurred in 1996, on the Endeavour Space Shuttle. He is currently on his fifth mission in outer space.

"When you go on a spacewalk for six hours, you get really tired, especially through your head," Wakata told the students.

He explained more about the joy he gets looking out and seeing the planet, his role on board the space station, what his favourite memories are and what the food tastes like. In total, he has spent over a year in space.

"Today, I surpassed 400 days in space," he said.

Grade 8 science teacher Jason Henstridge has been teaching his students a little bit about gravity, velocity and the feeling you would have of floating in the atmosphere.

His fellow teacher Kelly Shulman made a proposal several years ago with the Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS) and through that, the school was granted contact with the crew.

The ARISS program lets students around the world, experience the excitement of talking directly with crew members of the International Space Station, hoping to inspire them to pursue interests in careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

"There are always a few students who get inspired by things like this," said Henstridge. "So we’re really excited to give them the opportunity to do that."

It was an out-of-this-world contact, a call thousands of kilometres away, that few will ever forget. 

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