FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Sixteen students ranging from elementary to high school age got the chance to talk to an astronaut flying on the International Space Station, Monday.
The students communicated via radio for ten minutes and each asked astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor a question at Allen Park Elementary school during a presentation. They had been practicing since being selected in May.
Planning for the program, called Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS,) began a year ago. Allen Park Elementary learned in January it was selected to be the first Lee County School to participate in ARISS and one of just 15 for this session. Students began a “Year in Space” education program that included NASA’s “Train Like an Astronaut - Walk to the Moon” challenge, growing tomatoes from seeds flown in space, visiting the Kennedy Space Center to witness a rocket launch and forming a STEM Club to study rocketry, computer coding and robotics.
Courtney Black, a 5th grade science teacher at Allen Park, coordinated the event. She has inspired several students to pursue careers in space exploration. "If I can just have that small impact on one life, then my job is done," she said.
She had the help of Century Link and the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club, who built and tested the equipment used Monday.
Some of the questions included 'what do astronauts do to keep up with physical activity,' and 'how they stay safe from the suns rays while in space.' "Harry, you're asking about space radiation. Great question," said Auñón-Chancellor. "The way we protect ourselves is with the ISS, the thick shielding."
However, what students were most curious about was how the astronaut reached her accomplishments, and how they could follow in her footsteps. South Fort Myers Senior Emily Gunger was just accepted to Emery-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona, Florida. She says after the stellar q & a, she feels reassured about her path. "This is the start of my career to become an astronaut. This is where I'm setting my foot down and saying hey, this is what I want to do and this is how I want to do it. This is it, lets do this!" she exclaimed.