Elementary students at Md. school speak to astronaut aboard Inte - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Elementary students at Md. school speak to astronaut aboard International Space Station

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SILVER SPRING, Md. -

Plenty of little boys and girls dream of being an astronaut when they grow up. Some Maryland kids got a head start. On Thursday, they got to speak to the commander of the International Space Station – while he is still in space.

A tall tower stretches toward the blue sky at Forest Knolls Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

That tower reaches into a world most of us rarely see. It's a brief connection to the International Space Station.

“Excited, but a bit nervous at the same time,” said student Kara Nguyen.

At first, they heard only static. But after a few attempts:

“KB3WOA, any copy, sir?” was asked over the airwaves.

“KB3WOA, this is NA1SS. How do you read? Over,” a voice responded.

Astronaut Koichi Wakata was on the other end. They were talking via amateur radio -- or as some call it -- ham radio.

“I like to think of it as the original Facebook,” said Jim Cross.

“I have you loud and clear and I am ready to take your questions,” said Wakata.

A student named Grace asked, “How many days of food, water and air to you have aboard the space station?”

“Grace, we have food stocked for several months and a cargo supply vehicle comes up every few months,” Wakata answered.

“From the space station do space and the stars look different than from Earth?” asked a student named Milo.

“Milo, good question. As the light from the stars comes through the atmosphere, the stars do not twinkle like on the Earth. They are so bright you can see the Milky Way galaxy spreading out three dimensionally. It's wonderful.”

Maybe you think people around here drive fast. The International Space Station travels 18,000 miles per hour.

“It's why we only have like ten minutes,” said student Julian Hutchins.

It’s just a ten-minute window when the space station is overhead.

“If you mess up a word, you feel like it’s all over, maybe,” said Nguyen.

“I didn't know what they did for fun besides talk to other schools, so I really wanted to know because you can't bring chess. All the pieces would float around,” said one student.

“They actually see volcanoes erupt and hurricanes and tsunamis and natural disasters on Earth,” said Hutchins.

But like all great adventures, it had to come to an end.

But these kids now know, the sky is the limit.


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