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Space to Indiana: Hoosier Kids Talk to the International Space Station

Very few people have had the opportunity to talk with astronauts as they float above the Earth. But, these kids did.

INDIANAPOLIS--Talking to astronauts on the International Space Station is something most people don't get to do. But, Thursday at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis got to ask two of the astronauts on board a variety of questions.

They also got answers from Expedition 54 astronauts Mark Vande Hei of NASA, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The questions

"How was the food," asked one student.

"The food is really, really good. The food is largely in packages that stabilize or dehydrated," answered Vande Hei.

Nineteen students got to ask questions, lined up on the stage in the Museum's Lilly Theater. The downlink was via Skype, which went through NASA before reaching the Museum.

"Could you see the recent forest fires in California from space," asked another student. "I was on the space station when those fires were in progress and I did see them out the window," answered Vande Hei.

Going to the bathroom in space

Kanai answered a question about how they use the bathroom on the station.

"Here in space we cannot use water because it's very tricky. So, instead we use airflow to capture the liquid and solid waste." In other words, a vacuum system. 

One of the lucky

"It was out of a hat and just out of luck. I'm very happy," said Lauren Stringer, a student at North Salem Elementary School, when asked how she was chosen to be one of the few students who got to ask questions. "I got to ask 'what is your advice on young people dreaming to become part of the ISS'."

The answer: study science and technology. Stringer said she likes science, even though she says she's not the best at it.

Her teacher, Jeff Sankey, said attending the downlink was the first part of the kids' study on astronomy.

"So, the kids are doing the diameter of the planets and mapping it all out and the distance from one planet to another."

NASA to Hoosiers

The downlink was part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station, which provides extensive space station-related resources and opportunities to students and educators, said a news release from the Museum. 

Linking students directly to astronauts aboard the space station provides unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), said the Museum. 

The students also had the opportunity to visit Beyond Spaceship Earth during their visit.

“We are excited to inspire future scientists and explorers with a visit to the world’s largest children’s museum as they get to explore our space exhibits and take part in the live call to the International Space Station,” said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. 

“The museum’s interactive exhibits explore what it’s really like to live, work, and play in space and students will be able to see hands-on examples that demonstrate life and work on the Space Station.” 

PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis

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