Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=184576
Story Retrieval Date: 5/21/2013 1:47:40 PM CST
Astronauts on the International Space Station will be calling students back home during upcoming missions.
Long-distance call: Try the International Space Station
Students participate in a live in-flight conversation with NASA astronauts on the International Space Station.
NASA is offering students and educational groups a chance to talk live with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
But reserve your cosmic connection quickly – by April 29.
Winners will be announced in summer, according to Ann Marie Trotta, NASA public affairs officer.
Then from September through next March, NASA will facilitate 20-minute question-and-answer sessions with members of Expeditions 29 and 30, according to a NASA press release sent March 30.
“Space is an inspiring thing for kids. We as a nation and NASA as an agency need to motivate the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers,” said Trotta. “They’ll be the generation that takes us where we’ve never been before.“
The in-flight downlink program operates like a videoconference, and is open to any U.S. educational institution including schools, science centers and museums.
“Anything that has a science, technology or engineering component I’m interested in our kids being involved in,” said Christopher Dignam, assistant principal of Lane Technical College Prep High School on Chicago's North Side. “That would definitely interest us here.”
He said he doesn’t know if any of Lane Tech’s students or teachers has applied yet, but that they frequently do for similar programs.
Dignam said his focus is to increase the number of students who go on to pursue degrees in engineering, math and science. He said NASA’s in-flight downlink program could help. “It’s relevant and it’s meaningful,” he said.
Janelle Schroeder, 28, a Northwestern University graduate student from Lakeview, participated in a downlink session in junior high. Her earth science class joined other students at a nearby high school in Las Vegas for the Q-and-A.
She said students’ questions focused on life, rather than science, in space. “As an 8th grader, you’re more interested in how they live in a space shuttle than the scientific work they’re doing in space,” she said.
If Schroeder could ask a question today she would ask why space shuttle voyagers wanted to become astronauts and how they followed through. “A lot of people say they want to become astronauts when they’re young, but not many people do,” she said.
Dignam’s question would be about the future of space exploration. “How would they feel about the space program and some of the changes that have been made and programs being cut?” he asked. “What’s our next step in remaining a leader in space travel and research?”
Schroeder is also concerned. “I think it’s disappointing they want to disband the current space program, because there’s no real back up plan,” she said. “There’s nothing replacing it that in the immediate future. “
Both Dignam and Schroeder said there isn’t enough emphasis on science in education.
“It’s vital for the future of the U.S. because there is a shortage of engineers. The U.S. has to contact countries and individuals from overseas to bring them here,” Dignam said.
“You can't really understand how the world works if you don’t know science,” Schroeder said.
Students, teachers and groups interested in applying for the downlink can email JCS-Teaching-From-Space@mail.nasa.gov for information requirements and proposal guidelines. Proposals must be submitted electronically by April 29.