Students Get Guest Speaker From Space

Students at a small charter school in southeast Houston did some virtual space travel today. Instead of reading about NASA and life on the International Space Station, they got a chance to talk directly with the astronauts in space. Bill Stamps has the story.


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ISS Expedition 27 crew
The Expedition 27 crew members, from right, are Commander Dmitry Kondratyev and Flight Engineers Andrey Borisenko, Catherine Coleman, Alexander Samokutyaev, Paolo Nespoli and Ron Garan. Photo credit: NASA

“This is the International Space Station welcome aboard, I’m ready for your first question. Over.”

That’s Astronaut Ron Garan speaking from space to students at Mount Carmel Academy. The school chose ten students to ask questions.

First up was John who’s a junior.

“Hi my name is John. What led you to be an astronaut and when did you decide you wanted to be an astronaut? Over.”

Getting a clear line from space isn’t exactly easy.

Static…”I got you loud and clear.”

But considering the distance between the space station and the students in Houston, Astronaut Garan did his best.

“Hi John, I wanted to be an astronaut since I was about six years old. That’s when I saw the first moon landing back in 1969. Ever since that time I’ve wanted to be an astronaut.”

Principal Maureen Giacchino remembers that day as well, in fact it’s the reason she moved to Houston.

“My husband and I came down here in 1964 with the plan of putting the man on the moon in five years which was an exciting thing because it happened.”

Giacchino  is not just an educator, she’s spent most of her life working for NASA in some form. She’s even taught English to Japanese astronauts headed for the space station. Giacchino hopes talking to a real astronaut in space will give students the same passion for space that she has.

“I think the kids are not aware of the impact it’s had on their lives. I think we need to do more of that as to how important the technology. Even if they don’t want to be on the moon, there’s a technology involved in space that isn’t duplicated anywhere else.”

Manuel Rodriguez is an HISD Trustee who helped organize the space chat. He also has a passion for space exploration.  Just talking about NASA and what the agency has done for this country gets him emotional.

“Some of the disasters that happened in the Apollo Program and eh the space shuttle. Being here in Houston, having our kids have that first hand access to what NASA can do for them, or do for the community and society, I feel that as very important.”

“Hi my name is Carolina. What was your major in college? Over.”

The question and answer session with astronaut Garan ended a little earlier than planned when the space station traveled out of signal range. Even though the signal was lost to the students, Giancchino hopes the point of the event was not.

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