Stillwater students take 'field trip' to International Space Station
BY SAMANTHA VICENT World Correspondent
Saturday, December 01, 2012
12/01/12 at 7:38 AM
Learn more: Read about the International Space Station.
STILLWATER - More than 450 people, including Stillwater Middle School students, teachers and Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis, received a sneak peek of life at the International Space Station on Friday.
During a 30-minute connection with the space station, Cmdr. Kevin Ford fielded questions from students about topics such as life support technologies and fears about space life.
Sixth-grader Emma Watkins asked about the difficulty of sleeping at the space station.
"It's much easier for me to sleep in space than it is back home," he replied. "We sleep in a cabin, and you can float inside."
Ford emphasized the value of NASA's research in space.
"I've been to more than 50 countries, and they all know NASA," he said. "We're doing something special for the future of humankind."
The retired Air Force colonel discussed the need for math and science education among younger students.
"Most schools don't have a program to teach students how aircraft really works. ... Those are the kinds of things students should learn at a basic level," he said. "You never know what might spark a student's interest."
Students lined up on stage watching Ford on three large televisions wanted firsthand knowledge about space food.
"We don't have a lot of refrigeration," he said. "We have one small one we use for science and food, so not a lot fits in there. ... Our food has to have a long shelf life at room temperature."
Ford surprised the audience by saying he wants things to go awry during experiments and research.
"This is a very complex system," he said. "We use a lot of computers. We push the edge on technology up here. We really want things to go wrong because we put stuff up here to test it and experiment. That's how you learn - by trial and error."
Despite the crew's busy schedule, they have some down time, Ford said.
"We spend our spare time taking care of little things," he said. "I can watch a little bit of college and professional football if I want to. ... Our favorite pastime is trying to take pictures of our hometowns from space."
Ford ended the downlink by performing a somersault, which brought loud cheers from the audience.
"Was that cool or what?" Hargis said.
OSU partnered with Stillwater Public Schools on the "Pioneers in Space" project, which represents one of six downlink partners with NASA this year, OSU spokeswoman Christy Lang said.
Julie Thomas, the director of OSU's Center for Research on STEM Teaching and Learning within the College of Education, said OSU education majors helped the middle school students prepare for the downlink with lessons on science, technology, engineering and math.
Sam Whitley, an education senior and student-teacher, said the process wasn't quick.
"We've been planning this since the beginning," he said. "It's been a semester-long project."
Thomas commended Ford's performance.
"It exceeded all my expectations," she said. "I was impressed by how personable the astronaut was with the kids. It was like he was in the room."
Thomas hopes the students will consider STEM careers in the future.
"We were especially interested in introducing them to all the possible careers at NASA," she said. "We're hoping that, at this young age, if we can introduce them to a career that is appealing, it will help increase their interest and participation in science and math courses through high school."
Original Print Headline: Kids take 'field trip' to space
Look for it
The International Space Station is among the brightest objects orbiting Earth. The station's solar arrays span 240 feet from tip to tip. Only the sun and moon are brighter when the station passes overhead.
It can be viewed:
||Direction to look
|Saturday 6:06 a.m.
|Sunday 5:18 a.m.
Stillwater Middle School sixth-grader Abbie Wooten tries on an astronaut's helmet and gloves Friday. Students were given a chance to ask questions of Cmdr. Kevin Ford, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. KT KING/for the Tulsa World
Stillwater Middle School sixth-grader Kate Carpenter asks a question Friday of Cmdr. Kevin Ford, who is aboard the International Space Station. The live link with the space station was part of an arrangement with Oklahoma State University and NASA. KT KING/for the Tulsa World
Brian Hawkins of NASA shows students freeze-dried cauliflower and cheese before the downlink with Cmdr. Kevin Ford, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. KT KING/for the Tulsa World