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For Release: Dec. 26, 1996
Catherine E. Watson
(757) 864-6122

RELEASE NO. 96-180


Local Students To Try Amateur Radio Contact with Astronaut John Blaha Aboard the Mir Space Station

Students from Granby High and Mary Calcutt Elementary schools in Norfolk will travel to the Virginia Air and Space Center (VASC) in Hampton at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 28 to contact Astronaut John Blaha aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. The backup date is Sunday, Dec 29 at 10 a.m.

The students hope to learn about aerospace activities first-hand by asking Blaha questions as he orbits the Earth. This student activity is part of several educational programs sponsored by NASA, the U.S. Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment and the Russian Mir Amateur Radio Experiment. Local arrangements for this event were made through the VASC Amateur Radio Group, a consortium of the NASA Langley Research Center amateur radio club and 10 other local radio clubs. The group operates a major amateur radio exhibit at the VASC.

"This isn't a video game," said Joe Quirion, teacher-coordinator of the project. "This is the real thing. Talking directly with astronauts in space is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these students."

Quirion added that by tracking Mir students, can learn real-life science and mathematics skills. "When students make contact," he said, "lessons in electronics and communications begin to make sense. Most importantly, many students learn to "reach for the stars" for themselves. Teachers around the country report that this program creates interest and enthusiasm on the students' part."

Blaha, who attended Mary Calcutt Elementary School and graduated from Granby High School, hopes to talk with students in nine selected schools throughout the United States and South Africa before returning to Earth in mid-January aboard STS-81.

To attend the event, or for more information, interviews, etc., contact Catherine E. Watson at 864-6122.

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