Indiana, Australian Youngsters Step Up to the Microphone to Space
NEWINGTON, CT, Aug 18, 2006--Pupils at Robinson Elementary School in Anderson, Indiana, and at Teven-Tintenbar Public School in New South Wales, Australia, learned more about life in space when they spoke via ham radio earlier this month with ISS crew member Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program arranged both direct VHF contacts. During the August 2 QSO between W9VCF at Robinson Elementary and NA1SS in space, one youngster offered a new twist on the typical "food question." He wanted to know how the space station crew was able to eat without the meal floating away.
Chris Jones - VK2ZDD
"Well, it does float if you let it go," Williams allowed. "Wet food, if you fish it out of the container with a spoon, will stick to the spoon. Sometimes dry food you can let float and catch it in your mouth." He said moist food is easier to consume because it will stick to a utensil or the container. "We are well supplied with food," he said in reply to another pupil's question.
Williams told the youngsters he enjoys being an astronaut because "we do some pretty cool things, and that's what my passion is." He said he became an astronaut because he believes in space exploration that eventually will take human beings outside of Earth orbit and on to the planets.
Responding to another question, he told the youngsters that all three space travelers now onboard the ISS get along very well. There are three crew members on the ISS: Williams, ISS Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, RV3BS, of Russia, and Thomas Reiter, DF4TR, of Germany.
On August 11, an audience of nearly 400 was on hand at Teven-Tintenbar Public School to witness the contact between VK2ZTY and NA1SS. The youngest student, Amy, VK2FCAT, a recent Foundation licensee, had the honor of establishing contact with NA1SS. Williams told one youngster that there's no single most-important experiment under way aboard the ISS.
"We have a whole bunch of experiments that we're doing that will help us understand what it takes to counter the weightless environment for people in long-durations in space," Williams explained, "primarily in preparation for going back to the moon and staying there and on to Mars, because it takes a long time to get to Mars, do the mission and come back."
Williams said the crew sometimes is surprised at what it sees while looking out the ISS portholes or put on alert when an alarm sounds. But by and large, he said, the crew has not encountered anything it wasn't already prepared for. "We're very prepared for dealing with the unexpected," he declared.
Williams said he misses his family most of all during his space mission. "I also miss the smells of Earth," he continued, "the smells of nature -- flowers, the wind. I miss quietness."
Williams pointed out that -- if left to its own devices -- the ISS would continue to drop in orbit. He said the crew must occasionally raise the space station's orbit using onboard thrusters.
After the ISS went out of range, ARISS mentor Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, picked up where Williams left off, answering a half-dozen questions that the students weren't able to fit in during the nearly eight-minute pass. He also took more questions from the audience. Just after sunset, those gathered at the small school were treated to a clear view of the ISS passing overhead on its next orbit.
ARISS is an international educational outreach, with US participation by ARRL, AMSAT and NASA.
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