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Making contact
Rankin students speak to astronaut on space station

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The gymnasium was packed as students at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik (MUI) made contact with the International Space Station this past week in Rankin Inlet.

NNSL photo/graphic

Program volunteer Lori McFarlane has Nathaniel Fredlund read his question to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield on-board the International Space Station as Nicholas Deagle waits for his turn at Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik in Rankin Inlet this past week. - Darrell Greer/NNSL photo

The students asked Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield 12 questions in the 10-and-a-half minutes the station was in range.

The educational program was delivered by volunteers with the amateur radio on the International Space Station (ARISS).

The organization ARISS Canada aims to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math through amateur radio communications opportunities.

ARISS is an international working group of delegations from nine countries, including Canada, Japan, Russia, the U.S. and several European countries.

The organization is run by volunteers from national amateur radio organizations and the Radio Amateur Satellite Corp. from each country.

Principal Jesse Payne said the event was originally scheduled to happen in 2012, but was weathered out.

He said organizer Ron Ralph of Ottawa, Ont., plays a large role in getting Northern schools involved with the program.

"Ron, basically, contacts schools in the North to explain the project and ask if they want to be put on the list to participate," explained Payne.

"We put our name on the list, gradually moved up, and then were told we were going to be the next school sometime in April.

"They can't say exactly when, too early in the process, because of security.

"Because they didn't get in this past year, they made us a priority this year."

Teachers in grades eight to 12 prepared their students for the event.

The students selected to ask Hadfield a question were Curtis Kridluar, Michael Wallace, Lukisha Tatty, Jakob Voisey, Jaden Sigurdson, Katauyak Everard, Tatonya Autut, Desiree Autut, Nathaniel Fredlund, Nick Deagle, Tyrese Dias, Precious Maningas, Sidney Nichol, Dione Adams, Tristen Dias and Layla Autut.

Payne said there were originally going to be 20 students asking questions, but that number was lowered to 16.

"They figured we wouldn't get 20 questions in during the 10-to-15-minute window the station is in range.

"We were in contact for 10.5 minutes and managed to ask 12 questions, so we were pretty happy with that."

Payne said the school received some educational material the teachers were able to use in the classroom.

He said the students were excited to be part of the event.

"We knew we were going to be talking to Chris Hadfield on the space station, but we were surprised to learn it was being heard all over the world on amateur radio.

"As with anything that's broadcast over a great distance by radio, it was going to have its difficulties.

"There was some difficulty when the station first entered our window of communication, but it became a lot clearer as it moved more into range and then faded again at the end.

"The students didn't seem discouraged by that at all, and they enjoyed the other presentations while we waited for the station to get in range."

In one of those presentations, Hadfield said he had dreamed of going into space since he was nine.

Payne said one goal of the project is to show students it's OK to dream and, if you work hard, you really can accomplish them.

He said hearing Hadfield say he wanted to be an astronaut since he was nine years old is pretty inspiring.

"We have other people like Jordin Tootoo of Rankin Inlet who wanted to be an NHL player his whole life.

"He accomplished his goal and students can draw inspiration from that.

"It shows if they attend school regularly, work hard enough and do the things they need to do, their dreams can come true and they can become what they want to be."

Grade 8 student Tyrese Dias, who's about to turn 14, said he enjoyed being part of the program.

He said there were a number of areas about life on the space station that really caught his interest.

"How they sleep, eat and use the washroom are all really interesting," said Dias.

"Everyone wanted to know how they use the washroom.

"I asked if they could see the Northern lights from up there and he (Hadfield) said they were beautiful to see from the station.

"It was pretty neat to hear him talk to us from the space station, and it was really cool to find out we were being heard around the world."

Grade 10 student Jeremy Maley, 16, said the whole experience was cool.

He said he was surprised by how clear Hadfield's voice was for awhile.

"I thought there would be a lot more static than what there was," said Maley.

"Zero gravity was the most interesting part of it all, especially how they sleep.

"It was kind of gross and a little bit of a turnoff, to hear they recycle urine back into their drinking water.

"It really got me a lot more interested in space than I was before."

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