Space Station Astronauts Connect Live With D.C. Students for International Education Week Event
About 200 middle school students from the Washington, D.C., area got an up-close-and-personal lesson in space exploration during a question and answer session with the Expedition 25 space station crew on Tuesday, Nov. 23.
The event, hosted by NASA and the Department of Education, included a special downlink from the International Space Station and was held in recognition of International Education Week. This year's IEW theme is "International Education: Striving for a Sustainable Future." The event continued a long-standing partnership between the two agencies and celebrated the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and NASA Associate Administrator for Education and former astronaut Leland Melvin welcomed the students from Hart Middle School and Deal Middle School. Secretary Duncan told the students that staying in school and doing well is critical and reminded them that studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics in school can lead to many exciting career options. Then the students had an opportunity to learn first-hand about living and working in space from NASA astronauts and current station residents Scott Kelly, Shannon Walker and Doug Wheelock.
Space station astronauts Kelly, Walker and Weaver answer questions from DC middle school students. Image Credit: NASA/Paul Alers
Kelly, Walker and Wheelock are living and conducting science experiments aboard the space station for about six months each. Wheelock, who is the Expedition 25 commander, and Walker are due to return to Earth Thursday, Nov. 25. Kelly will remain onboard, serving as the Expedition 26 commander, until March.
During the 20-minute exchange, more than a dozen students asked questions ranging from what kind of training is required to how are eating and drinking different in space to what kind of experiments are conducted on the space station. The astronauts closed the communications downlink thanking the students for their participation today and encouraging them to do well in school.
Leland Melvin then took the stage to share with the students his personal space flight experiences as a mission specialist on STS-122 in 2008 and STS-129 in 2009. In addition to studying hard, he emphasized how important teamwork is no matter what your interests or career choice, from being part of a space exploration team to being an athlete. Both he and Secretary Duncan played college and professional sports - Melvin in football, Duncan in basketball - where teamwork is essential. He told them to believe in themselves and to keep trying, even after a failure. He also left them with some sage advice: "If someone says you can't, respectfully let them know that the only difference between can't and can is an apostrophe and a "t." You can - live your dreams!"
Students wait patiently for their turn to talk to astronauts in orbit. Image Credit: NASA/Paul Alers
Before closing the event, Melvin presented teachers Lauren Gill and Sean Harb with commemorative montage of today's event. Both are part of Teach for America, a network of top college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunities. Teach for America helped organize today's education event.
This live, in-flight education downlink is one in a series with educational organizations in the U.S. and abroad to improve teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, often referred to as STEM. It is an integral component of Teaching From Space, a NASA Education program. Teaching From Space promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of space and NASA's human spaceflight program.
NASA's head of education and former astronaut Leland Melvin closes today’s education event with inspiring advice. Image Credit: NASA/Paul Alers