Published On: Sat, Nov 11th, 2017

Saint Andrew’s Student Among 11 Selected to Speak to Astronaut Aboard ISS

Photos and story by: Bryanna Basilio

From aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to the South Florida Science Museum and Aquarium, connection between an astronaut in space and 11 lucky Palm Beach County students was established on Monday, Nov. 6 in West Palm Beach.

The 11 students from different PBC elementary schools were winners of an essay contest where students had to write about a question they would ask an astronaut.

The communication was made possible by ARISS, the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, which provided students with an exciting interaction with crew members aboard the ISS in a live talkback.

Students, students’ families, museum attendees and the press all patiently glued their eyes to a nearby monitor showing a live global map of ISS’ location. The students only had an eight minute window to ask their questions to Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli as the ISS sped at a rate of 17,600 mph within the radius of communication. Questions from students were planned and approved and sent to Nespoli weeks prior to ensure each student would be able to ask their question.

Among the group was Saint Andrew’s School eight-year-old second-grader Chris Andersson, who was chosen as the first student to ask a question.

“I was really excited when I heard,” Chris said when first learning of being chosen to speak first two weeks prior. He was the youngest of the 11 students who participated.

Chris has always been interested in space, while his father and fellow space enthusiast, Leif Andersson, supports his interests.

“He does science experiments at home, electronics, chemistry, he’s just very exquisite,” Leif said. “He wants to know how everything works.” Leif is also a member of the radio club and helped set up ARISS radio communication with his son’s help.

Although only eight-years-old, Chris has his mind set on what he wants to do in the future.

“I want to be someone that helps the astronauts, not an astronaut,” he said.

“He wants to work on the technology to go to space,” Leif chimed in. “He is only in second-grade so he’s not ready to leave his family,” he continued jokingly. “His mom and I are very proud of him.”

As for Chris’ question to Nespoli, he asked what was the most unexpected science experiment discovery for him in space, which Nespoli said was during an experiment in which a flame continued to burn even in low temperatures.

The event coincided with the science center’s new 5,000-square-foot exhibit “Astronauts,” which opened two weeks ago. The exhibit runs until April with a general admission of $16.95 for adults and $12.95 for kids. Kids under three are free.

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