Third-grade student Kaia Vanney may never forget the day she asked an astronaut what it feels like to be weightless in space.
"It's fun to be weightless," Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield replied Monday from his perch aboard the International Space Station. "You would love it, Kaia."
The roughly seven-minute talk for 12 students from Soleado Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes was the culmination of six months of planning by parents, teachers, administrators and volunteers.
They communicated with Hadfield via amateur radio, and, though everyone was warned beforehand the technology for communicating with the fast-moving space station isn't always perfect, the discussion went smoothly, except for a little static at the beginning and the end. The program is a joint venture organized by amateur radio associations and NASA to help stimulate student interest in space, as well is in math and science.
"They totally loved it," third-grade teacher Lauren Kearns said. "They were thrilled. Any time you can bring in the curriculum and have real-life experience, it totally enhances it."
One by one, the students walked up to a microphone on an auditorium stage and posed questions for Hadfield. They wanted to know whom Hadfield considered his mentors, what was the most challenging part of being on the International Space Station, and what his advice was for them as school students.
"I want people to learn that if they work hard enough, things that used to be impossible can be possible," said Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space.
Afterward, the students, who have been learning about space throughout the school year and even constructed models of the space station, said the radio communication was a success.
"I was pretty nervous being in front of all of those people," said Aiden Chominsky, 8. "But it was exciting."
Jessica Delarosa, who asked what skills astronauts should have, said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She learned from Hadfield that students who want to fly into space should focus on math and science in school.
"It was a great answer," said Jessica, 9. "It was a great experience for me. I know so much more about the (space station) now. I didn't even know what it was before this project."
For her part, Kaia said she was amused with Hadfield's suggestion that she would enjoy being weightless. She thinks space would be cool "... because you would get to flip around and be light and have no weight."
But even Kaia was relieved the process was over. The students had been preparing and rehearsing their questions for a long time.
"It was nerve-racking, too," she said.
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