By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — Dearborn Public Schools students eagerly gathered in the lecture hall at the Michael Berry Center, 22586 Ann Arbor Trail, Oct. 27 for their chance to talk with a real life International Space Station astronaut.
Mary Varady, Science, Technology, Education and Math coordinator for the district, worked with local amateur radio operators for almost a year to arrange the contact with the ISS. She also worked with principals to provide lessons and other activities tied to the event.
“We are delighted to have been selected and to be able to offer our students this one of a kind learning opportunity,” Varady said.
In the spring, DPS Media Tech Specialist Gordon Scannell, an amateur radio operator, presented the details of the program to district teachers.
Scannell, along with other amateur radio volunteers, spent several hours arranging the technical details for the main event, including installing a large temporary antenna on the roof of the center.
The activity was part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station Program, which promotes learning opportunities as part of the STEM initiative.
Dearborn was one of 15 school districts from across the country selected to participate.
Varady received more than 2,000 questions from students across the district and then had the daunting task of narrowing them down to only the best.
Students began asking NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren questions just after noon which varied from medical, diet to exercise.
In total, 18 students in grades 1 to 8 had their questions selected. Of the 18 students, 15 were able to ask their questions before losing connection with Lindgren.
He was asked what kind of food the astronauts eat.
“We heat prepackaged or dehydrated food in a food laboratory,” he answered. “We also completed an experiment where we’ve grown lettuce to eat.”
Student Stavros Stylianou asked what the six astronauts in space would do if an injury were to occur.
“We have special medical equipment and supplies up here,” Lindgren said. “I am the emergency medical doctor, so if anyone of the crew members gets hurt I’ll be able to help.”
Lindgren also said the astronauts with him in space speak two languages, English and Russian.
When asked about how they sleep, Lindgren said each astronaut had his own preference.
“We all sleep in a sleeping bag,” he said. “Some of us chose to float around and others chose to be strapped to wall when we sleep.”
Lindgren also told students that the astronauts have special exercise equipment in space when asked about staying in shape.
“We have a treadmill and bike to keep our muscles strong,” he said.
When asked what the hardest part about being in space was, Lindgren was quick to mention his friends and family.
“The toughest part of being in space is missing my family,” he said. “I speak to them on the phone and also video chat with them.”
To watch DPS students ask astronaut Lindgren questions, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbhrQiZ62LE. The questions begin about the one-hour mark.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)