Laval youngsters link live to space station commander

Laval youngsters link live to space station commander

By Robert Frank

Cédrick Côté, 10, who wants to be an astronaut one day, posed the first of 16 questions students at Des Cardinaux Elementary School got to ask Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, during a live radio uplink, March 26.

When the Grade 5 student visited the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology last year, he learned that an organization called ARISS arranges educational hookups with the International Space Station (ISS).

After returning home to Laval, he approached school Principal Nathalie Frappier. Frappier approached ARISS, which approved the request that made last week’s orbital encounter possible.

Almost 600 students filled the school gymnasium in Laval’s Champfleury district, of which 16 got to ask the Canadian ISS commmander a question during the 12-minute exchange, which started at 9:13 a.m.

“It was great for the kids to be able to talk to an ISS commander who could speak to them in French,” enthused Steve McFarlane, who is organizing about 15 such space-school encounters across Canada this year, including one slated for a mid-August Scout jamboree in Lowe, Quebec.

“ARISS, which stands for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, is a NASA program,” he explained. “It’s supported by eight space agencies around the world, including the Canadian Space Agency.”

McFarlane’s team of volunteers across the country coordinate with NASA planners in Houston to schedule times when ISS astronauts can communicate with schools via VHF-FM radio. Last week’s Laval encounter was made possible by an ARISS relay station in Maryland.

This mission is Hadfield’s third on ISS, and his first as commander. He told the Laval students that becoming an astronaut had been his dream since the age of nine.

“There’s nothing stopping you from doing likewise,” he urged.

So what did the Laval youngsters want to know? Among the questions they asked were:

  • What is your source of electricity?
  • What are working conditions like in space?
  • Are there seasons in space?
  • How can you return to Earth, in an emergency?
  • What would happen were a meteoroid to strike the space station?
  • How do you advance technological progress aboard ISS?
  • How to you keep connected with social media from the station?
(Left to right) Cédrick Côté’s teacher Michèle Côté, assistant principal France Grenier, principal Nathalie Frappier, Laval ham radio club’s Joël Bouchard, school board chair Louise Lortie, Cédrick’s father Patrick Coté, aspiring astronaut Cédrick Côté, Alexandre De Carufel, who designed the school’s logo and Cédrick’s brother Gabriel Côté.

Commander of the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, spoke in French to Laval elementary school students via VHF-FM radio, March 26.

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