It was an out-of-this-world experience for many third-grade students at Soleado Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes on Monday morning as they spent several minutes interviewing Canadian astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield, aboard the International Space Station.
The chat, which began at about 11:52 a.m., took place during the 8-minute communication window that opened as the ISS flew above the area at 17,000 miles per hour. Students across the South Bay watched via a livestream from ION cable as the Soleado Suns contacted Hadfield.
"This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing I could do," said third-grade student Jessica Delarosa, 9. Jessica was one of several students who asked Hadfield questions during the program. "You'd be really lucky to do it twice."
According to Soleado principal Kevin Allen, the school first applied for the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program in May, and Soleado was selected as a participant in August. A $6,000 grant from the Peninsula Education Foundation funded the effort.
"We are so honored and thrilled to be a part of this," said PEF executive director Andrea Sala. She added that selecting the ARISS program grant application was "just a no-brainer": "It was so different and fun and engaging with the students."
"We really wanted the kids to have this opportunity," Allen said later.
The third-grade students have been learning about the ISS all year. Before the communication window with Hadfield opened, students, such as fifth-grader Abby, age 10, interviewed people involved with ARISS and told the audience facts about the ISS.
"I thought it was very exciting because this is not something a lot of third-graders can do," said Abby.
"They were thrilled," Kearns told reporter Brian Sumers. "Any time you can bring in the curriculum and have real-life experience, it totally enhances it."
For his part, Hadfield answered the students' questions clearly and personably. Though the communication window was cut short—possibly because an airplane flying a path similar to that of the ISS far above it blocked the radio signal, some of the operators at the event speculated—Hadfield later took to Twitter to thank Soleado.
"Good questions, students at Soleado Elementary!" Hadfield tweeted. "Sorry we didn't have time for them all. Thanks for talking with me on the ham radio!"