St. Raphael students make contact with space station
By Jane Donahue For The Sun February 13, 2013 12:58PM
More than 300 people gathered at St. Raphael Catholic School on Tuesday to take part in a video conference with Commander Kevin Ford on board the International Space Station.
Did you know?
The space station, including its large solar arrays, spans the area of a U.S. football field, including the end zones, and weighs 861,804 pounds, not including visiting vehicles. The complex now has more livable room than a conventional five-bedroom house, and has two bathrooms, a gymnasium and a 360-degree bay window.
Updated: March 16, 2013 6:14AM
Students from St. Raphael Catholic School in Naperville learned firsthand what it’s like to live and work in space when they linked up Tuesday with NASA’s International Space Station.
“To have 300 children sitting absolutely silent and enthralled says a lot about the way they learned today, and how interactive education has to be,” Principal Mary Rehfield said.
Commander Kevin Ford of Exhibition 34 talked to students during a 50-minute call from space. Teacher Kathy Tierney brought the idea for the live video chat to Rehfield after meeting Ford last summer.
“He said he was going up (in the International Space Station), and I asked him if we could talk to him,” Tierney said. “NASA sees our kids as the next generation of astronauts and is very eager to help the kids learn more about this. It was amazing to do this.”
Ford began the mission in October and will be on board until March. He leads a crew that includes fellow NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy, Evgeny Tarelkin and Roman Romanenko.
“It’s really fun to hear from friends down there and to welcome you aboard the space station,” Ford told the crowd from a large video screen in the center of the gymnasium. “It’s really such a special place to be. To me, it’s my Disneyland, and I love being up here.”
After a few flips and a sip from a juice pouch — some of it floating — he turned it back over to the students who had prepared questions for the 52-year-old astronaut.
Answering questions from food to asteroids and many things in between, Ford had both children and adults engaged.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to talk to an astronaut who is actually in space and see what it’s like to be with no gravity,” 11-year-old Sam DiMatteo said.
Jack Konopka, 10, shared the sentiment.
“Space is really far away from where we are now, and it’s just amazing that we can do this,” he said.
Principal Rehfield said it was worth the effort that went into making the event happen. She described it as “history alive” at the Naperville school.
“The new push in education is in science, technology, engineering and math, and this incorporation of real-life education is very important for students today,” she said. “This was a very rare opportunity, and we wanted to go for it.”