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Goddard Kids Make Call To ISS Resident
GCDC student asking a question of the ISS crew

Julian Aguayo asks a question of astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. Credit: NASA Goddard/Debbie McCallum
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What do Goddard four-year-old pre-schoolers, local middle school students and an amateur radio operator have in common? Unlike most Earthlings, they were able to place an out-of-this-world call to a resident aboard the International Space Station. The call was made from inside the Visitor Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Answering the call was Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who was born in Japan but grew up in New Jersey. For almost 10 minutes, individual students from the Goddard Child Development Center, the Howard B. Owens Science Center, and the Robert Goddard French Immersion School were given the opportunity to ask questions of the astronaut.

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity culminated several months of student work. During that time, students focused on space station operations, mission control history, and astronomy within their daily school curriculum. “Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) and Teaching from Space -- both NASA initiatives -- encourage student interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Dr. Trena Ferrell, a Goddard education specialist.

Eighty-eight students made their way to the visitor center auditorium for a chance to listen in and even ask a question of Hoshide. Their questions ranged from everyday life aboard the space station to his prospective from orbit. “Teachers, students and community members are a big part of this activity,” said Nancy Abell, Goddard associate director. “The overall goal is to get students excited with opportunities such as speaking to a station crewmember.”

The call, almost a year in the making, was made possible through ARISS, a cooperative venture with NASA and other international space agencies. Together they coordinate scheduling, radio contacts between astronauts aboard the orbiting outpost and school students. Goddard's Amateur Radio Club also played a major role with making the audio-only signal connection as the space station flew overhead.

“We saw this opportunity for the students to gain a special meaning of an ARISS contact in a way that few other schools have,” said Syretha Storey, director of Goddard’s Child Development Center. “This is possible because of the special resources available to us here.”

During their conversations students were able to view on a large screen, an image of astronaut Hoshide as well as a satellite-tracking program of the space station. As the station rose above the midwest horizon at 12:39 p.m. EDT, AIRSS mentor Pat Kilroy (call sign K6DUE) spoke into his microphone calling out to call sign NA1SS. The student-filled auditorium was abuzz when they heard Hoshide respond. Students eagerly formed a line, one after another, to ask their questions.

Pre-K student Aidan Brennan was first, “How would you describe the view from ISS?” From 250 miles above, aboard the ISS Hoshide responded with one word, “Cool.” During the exchange of questions Hoshide talked about his dream to become an astronaut that had begun at age eight. He also encouraged the students to dream big and work hard in school.

During the exchange, which lasted about 10 minutes, the students had asked 26 questions. The students wished Hoshide a big “73,” which means good luck to amateur radio operators, as the space station dipped below the eastern horizon and the call ended.

The students had become a part of history at the Goddard Visitor Center. It was the first time the center had hosted such an event. “I am confident that based upon the experiences our students have had over the past three months building up to the ARISS contact, the knowledge they have gained will last a lifetime,” said Storey. “Teachers, parents and children alike were excited about this opportunity. Because of our teachers' creativity, parent involvement and expertise gained from the community, our students were prepared for this event and truly understand and appreciate the opportunity.”

For more information about ARISS visit:
Shamara Thornton
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.