Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield speaks from space to Stonepark students

Jim Day
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Ham radio operators help make connection to International Space Station

Scott MacIntosh, left, Lydia Craig, and Ryan Froude, grade 9 students at Stonepark School, are three of the 14 chosen who got to ask a question directly to Cmdr. Chris Hatfield in the International Space Station Thursday.

Jon Williams was on pins and needles waiting for Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to land in his Prince Edward Island school Thursday in Charlottetown.

“It’s kind of bone tingling, you know,’’ he said a short time before he made contact with Hadfield in space.

“You’re not sure if you are ready for a thing like this to happen.’’

Jon, 14, was one of 14 students that got to step up to a microphone and send a question skyward to the commander of the International Space Station. He wanted to know what has been the strangest thing Hadfield has seen in space.

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Water, the astronaut responded, was right up there.

“The way liquids behave in space is very cool, very bizarre,’’ said Hadfield, who lifted off late last year to spend five months working alongside American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts as they conduct science experiments, test new technologies, berth commercial re-supply craft with Canadarm2 and carry out spacewalks.

Hadfield’s busy and fascinating itinerary, however, has not left him losing touch with his home planet. He has been tweeting and chatting up a storm with his fellow earthlings.

Thursday’s talk with Stonepark students was a big hit as students asked Hadfield one question after another with the Q & A made possible through Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), which organizes scheduled contacts via amateur radio between astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station and classrooms and communities.

Some of Hadfield’s responses were difficult to discern as they crackled into the Charlottetown school. Other answers were clear and captivating.

He told students, for instance, that in space “the world is gorgeous at night.”

He responded to another student’s question by noting that his favourite thing to do in space is to fly. He just pushes himself off a wall and soars through the air.

“It’s like magic,’’ he said.

There were serious queries like the one from a student wondering what most concerns the astronaut while he is in space. Hadfield says that would be if a problem arose with his family, which, obviously he would not be able to tend to well from his distant workplace.

Later, he told another student that he would love his family to spend time with him in space.

“They would have a great time,’’ he assured.

On the lighter side, Hadfield told students what he finds real cool in space that is simply ho hum on earth is answering nature’s call.

“You can go to the bathroom upside down,’’ he said.

Hadfield noted his path into space was lined with 20 years of intense training.

“The hardest part,’’ he added, “is remembering everything.’’

The Canadian hero offered sincere gratitude for the exchange with students before signing off and returning to his work in space.

“Thanks for having me on P.E.I.,’’ he said. “Thanks for the great questions today.’’

Sue Geddes, a teacher/librarian at Stonepark who co-ordinated the special event, felt the long-awaited out-of-this-world chat was a big hit.

“We couldn’t have asked for anything better,’’ she said. “It’s unreal...I don’t have words for it.’’

Jon says being able to have Hadfield answer his question from space was both “very cool’’ and “very unreal.”

He says he felt the excitement building in the school as the big day approached.

Geddes says Hadfield is making space real for Stonepark students and many others.

“I guess we always think it’s way out there and it’s so hard to imagine but what he’s done is he has made it real for everybody,’’ she said. “He’s brought it back down to earth.’’

Organizations: International Space Station, Prince Edward Island school, ARISS Charlottetown school

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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