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Earth-to-Space Video Chat Inspires Students to Reach for the Stars!
Students in red shirts look up at a large screen showing astronauts Sunita Williams and Kevin Ford speaking from the space station

Students from D.C.'s Stuart-Hobson Middle School watch as astronauts Sunita Williams and Kevin Ford answer questions from the SSEP students. Image Credit: NASA

It was only a 20-minute video call, but for the almost 10,000 students who participated, hearing NASA astronauts talk about what it's like to live and work in space was an inspiring event. On Thursday, Nov. 15, Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams and Flight Engineer Kevin Ford made the long-distance call from International Space Station to students in the U.S. and Canada participating in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

The downlink is an annual event held in honor of International Education Week, a joint initiative between the Department of State and the Department of Education that celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange. It took place at the Moving Beyond Earth gallery in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The event was co-hosted with the Department of Education and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, or NCESSE, and was carried live on NASA Television.

Approximately 130 students from D.C.'s Stuart-Hobson Middle School had the chance to participate in person at the museum, and more than 9,500 other students joined in via webcast and switched video. Twenty-four students from both audiences had the opportunity to ask questions of Williams and Ford about life, work and research aboard the orbiting laboratory.

The questions ranged from the common query about using the bathroom in space to the technically savvy about station debris avoidance maneuvers for pieces of "space junk."

Wearing a blue flight suit, Leland Melvin stands in front of a lectern displaying the Smithsonian Institute seal and speaks to audience

NASA's Associate Administrator for Education and two-time space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin speaks to students about not giving up on their dreams. Image Credit: NASA
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Following the live Earth-to-station exchange, Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education and two-time space shuttle astronaut, took additional questions and gave a presentation about his space experiences and career path. He encouraged the students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics because those subjects are the gateway to many fascinating careers.

"You are the scientists, engineers and astronauts of tomorrow," Melvin said. "America's future of scientific research and space exploration is in your hands, and there's no better way to prepare yourselves for those grand adventures than to start pursuing a STEM career now."

Jeff Goldstein, director of NCESSE, which sponsors the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, also addressed the students and shared recent program highlights. SSEP is an in-orbit educational research opportunity that allows students to design and fly experiments to the space station through a collaboration with NanoRacks, LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA as part of using the space station as a national laboratory.

Other participants in the education activities included Deputy Secretary of Education Anthony Miller, Smithsonian Assistant Secretary for Education and Access Claudine Brown, and Director of the National Air and Space Museum Gen. J.R. "Jack" Dailey.

This in-flight education downlink is one in a series with educational organizations in the United States and abroad to improve STEM teaching and learning. It is an integral component of NASA's Teaching From Space education project, which promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of NASA and its human spaceflight program.

SSEP students designed patches to represent their teams. Each patch reveals details about the teams and what inspired them to enter the program. The patches below represent the 11 teams with experiments that were selected to fly on SSEP Mission 2 to the International Space Station.

Eleven colorful patches designed by students about their experiments for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

Read descriptions of the experiments proposed by all 33 teams for the SSEP Mission 2 to the International Space Station.

On the Web:
› NASA -- International Space Station
› Student Spaceflight Experiments Program   →
› Student Scientists Seek and Share Results From Space Station Studies   →

Ann Marie Trotta/NASA HQ Public Affairs Office