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Webcast Gives Students Taste of Life in Space

Image Left: The International Space Station

It weighs 198 tons, is 171 feet in length, and floats more than 200 miles above the Earth's surface, but the International Space Station may have gotten a little closer to home for one group of students thanks to a recent NASA Web cast.

Station Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA astronaut Ed Lu introduced the Web cast in celebration of World Space Week, declared by the United Nations as an international celebration of space held October 4-10 each year. The week's primary objective: to excite children about science and mathematics -- a goal that NASA pursues wholeheartedly.

The Web cast originated from one of NASA's astronaut training facilities in Houston, and featured astronaut and ISS Program Scientist Don Thomas and Robotics Flight Controller Royce Renfrew. The audience was primarily composed of students, who were able to submit their inquiries in advance or during the Web cast via the Internet.

From inside the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo", which means "hope" in Japanese, Thomas explained what it is like to live and work in space and talked about the scientific research being done on the ISS.

Among the many questions Thomas and Renfrew fielded was "can you watch TV on the space station?" from Chris, a fourth grade student in Indiana. Thomas explained to Chris that in space, TV is not necessary ? nothing beats looking out the window and watching the Earth go by.

Emphasizing the international flavor of the Web cast, Manny, a tenth grade student in France, asked what language is spoken on the station. (It's Russian and English, the primary languages of the Expedition crews)

Renfrew shared how robotic systems are helping to build and maintain the ISS, and let viewers have a glimpse into his career as a Robotics Flight Controller. He brought a unique perspective to the educational event, as he was an educator himself before choosing his current career.

"What better way to exemplify World Space Week than literally using technology to bring youth from around the world in to see and share in the excitement of the International Space Station," said Bill Gerstenmaier, International Space Station Program Manager.

Thomas added a personal element to the Web cast, sharing his experience of being the first to eat pizza, his favorite food, in space, and talking about his goal since childhood, which was, naturally, to be an astronaut.

At the close of the program, Thomas wished the audience a happy World Space Week, and left students with this advice: "Keep your eyes on the stars!"

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