South Knoxville students talk live with International Space Station

Published: May. 7, 2018 at 4:54 PM EDT
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NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold chatted live via amateur radio with Knox County Schools students attending Mooreland Heights Elementary on Monday morning. They had a narrow window of time when Arnold was able to communicate with the students while the International Space Station was passing over North America.

"Well good morning, welcome aboard the International Space Station," said Arnold over the radio. Ten students asked him brief questions that he answered one after another during that their time together. They completed twenty questions, so their teacher, Julie Farmer, was able to ask him an additional question.

"How long does it to take to get used to and recover from microgravity?" asked one boy. A girl asked about losing things in space. Yet another asked about health and nutrition in space.

Volunteer radio operators like Gould Smith organized the technical side of the communication time. He obtained permission from NASA for the question and answer period. He said he had to wait for NASA to assign him a frequency to use from earth.

"It was a confidential frequency so there wouldn't be any interference," explained Smith.

Farmer said this is part of the STEM education that is essential for all students these days. She had applied for the chat time a year earlier.

Gould said it is rare for schools to obtain this access, and that his radio group had helped Hardin Valley Academy do something similar last year.