If you had the chance, what question would you ask an astronaut orbiting the sky directly above you?
Students at Glanmire Community College (GCC) made history got this opportunity yesterday when they made contact with NASA astronaut Joe Acaba on board the International Space Station (ISS).
The students successfully made contact with the space-station via amateur radio from their school hall.
When faced with the once in a lifetime opportunity, the students asked Mr Acaba questions like: ‘What experiments do you think Leonardo Di Vinci would carry out if he was in your place?’ ‘Do your cells and hair grow faster or slower on the ISS?’, ‘Is it hard to sleep in space as you float?’ and ‘I have read that your sense of taste changes onboard ISS- does this mean that you can eat the hottest pepper on earth?’
A remarkable feat really when you consider that just 60 years ago, the world’s first satellite Sputnik 1, was launched into space.
The call was made possible through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) programme, a highly-competitive but voluntary programme for schools worldwide.
Usually, schools in the home country of astronauts on the expedition are given the majority of these events so it was a huge honour for GCC to be chosen due to their innovative application proposal.
The school collaborated on the project with Romanian secondary school Calistrat Hogas in Piatra-Neamt, sharing their signal by bouncing it off another satellite and taking turns to ask the astronaut questions.
His responses were then live streamed throughout both schools and to the public.
Fifth-year GCC student Ana Cruceanu, who is fluent in Romanian, played an instrumental part in helping to set up the link between both schools by acting as a translator.
“The whole event was so amazing,” Ms Cruceanu told the Echo.
“Over the last couple of days, while we were preparing we didn’t realise how big a deal this would be but then today, with everything happening it was quite overwhelming really!” GCC began calling the space-station at 10:53 am, after a brief warning that because the call was an experiment, there was a chance it might not be successful; “Oscar Romeo four India sierra sierra, this is echo India one, India sierra sierra, over.” After a tense two minute wait, Mr Acaba came in loud and clear at 10:55 am: “Yes, I am ready for the first question.” Hearing Mr Acaba respond from space was the best part of the day according to sixth-year student and one of the students involved in organising the event, Fergal Buckley.
“The best moment was the actual relief we felt when everything worked and hearing the astronaut's voice come through.” To mark the momentous occasion, GCC students celebrated an event packed with space-themed music, art, animations, short-films and fun.
The newly formed GCC choir also serenaded the crowd with their rendition of Coldplay’s ‘Sky Full of Stars.’ “The students are all converted space enthusiasts now,” science teacher Dan O’Sullivan told the Echo.
“Really, every student and every department collaborated on this project, not just science. We had fantastic input from art, music, home ec, it was a whole school effort with the students themselves doing most of the work. They put a huge amount of work in.”