Long Distance Call: Virginia to Space

Three seconds — that’s how long it took communication to travel from Virginia, through the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, bouncing between several satellites, all the way up to the International Space Station, orbiting 250 miles above Earth.

But that delay was worth the wait to the more than 800 students who participated in the Year of Education on Station downlink event at the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, Virginia, July 10. The event is part of NASA’s efforts aimed at encouraging students to go into fields related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“This is our chance to help students find their passion and it gives the astronauts, and NASA, a chance to share their excitement with others,” said Clayton Turner, Langley’s deputy director.

Approximately 400 students from 21st Century Community Learning centers, Boys and Girls clubs, and From One Hand To Another (FOHTA) participated in hands-on activities at the VASC prior to the downlink, and another 400 remote students throughout Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia hosted their own virtual watch parties and activities at their camps.

“As a former science educator, I always love what NASA does to inspire and engage our next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam, who moderated the event.

As hundreds of students gathered inside the VASC’s IMAX theater, live video of Gerst began broadcasting on the 50-foot tall screen and Northam opened the event with, “Station this is Langley Research Center at the Virginia Air and Space Center. How do you hear me?”

Gerst’s response, “Langley, this is the International Space Station we hear you loud and clear,” was followed by a huge cheer from the crowd. Students then had the opportunity to ask him questions about life on station.

“What type of technical training did you receive to ensure that you can fix any mechanical problems with the International Space Station,” asked Dusty Philman, a rising first-year student at Hampton High School.

Gerst, spinning his microphone in the air between questions, grabbed hold of the microphone and answered that although he learned a lot from NASA, he got most of his training through valuable life lessons. Philman said he appreciated the astronaut’s advice to pay attention to “the little things.”

Another student asked what Gerst’s “must-have” item was that he brought with him from Earth into space. His answer — his camera. He shared how he loves to take photos through the window of the station.

“We really only have this one little oasis in a black universe, so we have to cherish it and take care of it,” Gerst said.

Florentina Sergiou
NASA Langley Research Center

Source : nasa.gov

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