The South Florida Science Center became a launchpad for communication between 11 Palm Beach County elementary school students and an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.
On Monday, the group of students had just eight minutes to ask Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli their questions, since the space station was travelling at 17,600 mph and would quickly move out of contact range.
The president of the West Palm Beach Amateur Radio Group, Jim Nagle, initiated the outer space call over a ham radio, attempting to reach the space station.
The first two tries were unsuccessful, leaving the students hearing nothing but static.
But on the third attempt, the children were mesmerized as they heard the static crack and the voice of the astronaut come through.
The student participants ranged in age from 7-12 years old. Some were a bit nervous to speak with a real-life, outer-space astronaut.
In order to win the opportunity, students had to write an essay about a question they would ask an astronaut. Their work was judged on creativity, writing quality, and overall enthusiasm. More than 100 students from Palm Beach County entered.
The event was targeted to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
Students asked questions about life in space, including how astronauts do laundry. They were a bit taken aback when they learned that astronauts do not do laundry, but just change clothes when they can’t stand it any longer.
The group lit up when they heard that being in an anti-gravitational state made astronauts feel like they had moves like Spiderman.
Overall, the event was a terrific success and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the students.
The South Florida Science Center is now featuring “Astronauts,” a 5,000-square-foot exhibit that offers visitors an opportunity to experience what life is like on the International Space Station and a chance to determine if you could make it out there.
The science center’s chief operating officer, Kate Arrizza, described the exhibit as a “full body experience.”
“You get to go into a G-force simulator and you get to see how fast you can go and if your stomach can handle it,” she said.
The exciting exhibit runs through April. General admission is $16.95 for adults, $12.95 for kids, and those under age 3 are free.