February 22, 2013 - 4:31 PM
By Shannon Quesnel
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was floating in space when he spoke to about 500 people at Uplands Elementary School in Penticton today.
The 12 students chosen by the school to interact asked Hadfield questions which he was able to answer via a complex ham radio connection. The astronaut was on board the International Space Station (ISS) which is located 370 kilometres above the Earth's surface.
Grade 6 student Naomi said, “it was awesome” to speak to Hadfield. She asked him if he slept well on the space station. Hadfield said he sleeps better up there than he ever did down here.
“Naomi, imagine if you could relax every muscle in your body. You never have to roll over and never have to hold your head up,” Hadfield said.
Naomi was not the only person impressed. In attendance were students, air cadets, school staff, parents and Penticton city councillors. Communities for Kids employee Patricia Tribe appeared very happy. She was looking forward to the children speaking to Hadfield.
“They are getting science firsthand,” she said.
A ham radio operator said this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The conversation with Hadfield was made possible through local ham radio hobbyists, like Brian Edge, his Italian counterparts, the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program and Tribe, who once worked for NASA. She also knew Hadfield personally.
Edge says to reach Hadfield he and his counterparts waited until the ISS was above Italy, where an Italian ham radio operator made the connection to the space station. That signal was sent from Italy to North America. The connection sounded scratchy but Hadfield's voice came through loud and clear.
The astronaut only had a few minutes to speak before the ISS's orbit took it out of range of the Italian station. Hadfield was asked about his ham radio license, dark matter, how he was selected and what happens when a fire breaks out on the ISS.
A student named Melissa asked if astronauts forget how to do things.
“That's a yes,” Hadfield said. “After my first flight, a teammate and I tried to throw something to each other and it fell to the ground. We looked like two big horror movie monsters as we slowly moved forward to see. You really get used to weightlessness.”
He was asked what is the prettiest part of the world to see from space. Hadfield joked he could say Penticton but it is the Bahamas, thanks to the islands' coral reefs.
Jamie, a student, wanted to know if Hadfield had ever failed on a mission.
Thanks to his training and his hard work the astronaut said he has never failed a mission.
“Do you miss hearing the birds sing?” another student named Charlotte asked Hadfield. He said he doesn't, thanks to an MP3 recording of bird-song he has with him.
Since Hadfield entered the ISS he has used social media to inform and entertain those on the ground. From his post in space he has played the guitar with Bare Naked Ladies guitarist and lead singer Ed Roberston. He made a cooking-in-space video. He uses Twitter to show photos of different parts of the world at various times of the day.
Hadfield is the first Canadian to walk in space and has two Space Shuttle missions under his belt. He will also be the first Canadian station commander on the ISS in March.
To follow Hadfield or to learn more about him go to https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield
To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at email@example.com or call 250-488-3065.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013