Students from schools across Monrovia got a chance to watch a live downlink from the NASA international space station and ask astronauts questions Tuesday as part of a special event at Monrovia High School.
Monrovia High School was one of six schools chosen in the country to get the opportunity to talk to astronauts after Monrovia High School teacher Pamela Thompson submitted an application.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Pam’s husband Tim, a former Jet Propulsion Laboratory employee, told Patch. “When I was a kid at this age we didn’t have any astronauts at all.”
Twenty students from different Monrovia schools were chosen to each ask the astronauts a question at the live event Tuesday morning as their classmates looked on. The 20 students were chosen by winning a contest in which students decorated a bookmark and included a question on it for the astronauts.
NASA astronauts Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield answered the questions live.
Questions Tuesday morning ranged from, “What is your favorite thing about living in a low-gravity environment?” to “How do you wash your clothes in outer space?”
Floating is a favorite thing among the astronauts in low gravity, they told students, and they actually just wear clothes until they are dirty and throw them out since doing laundry in space would be too complex and use too much water. Since astronauts don’t sit on anything and their clothes somewhat float around them due to low gravity, clothes don’t get as dirty as one might think.
“It’s an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said parent Marne Ninneman of the Q&A event. Ninneman's daughter Farrah Sawyer attends Bradoaks Elementary and asked the question about washing clothes.
“The work Miss Ford and MASA (Math And Science Academy) has done will hopefully impact ideas about what they can do in the future.”
When a student asked what the most important job is at the space station, one of the astronauts responded, “Always the one you’re doing right now. One mistake can mess everything up.”
He went on to explain how a seemingly small problem—like a scratch on a window or a problem with the toilet—can have a significant effect. The audience snickered imagining toilet issues in space.
Due to time constraints, some students were unable to ask the space station astronauts their questions, so they asked of them of JPL astronomer Dr. Varoujan Gorjian, who was on hand at Monrovia High School.
“Kids love space,” said Gorjian, who emphasized the importance of kids realizing space is not far away from them and getting them interested in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields or other creative outlets.
At the end of the event, Monrovia High School teacher Kristin Ford presented a Wildcats in Space Shooting Star Award to Monroe Elementary School for consistently going above and beyond the district-wide assignment of making space bookmarks, astronaut biographies and lego space creations.
Astronomy Outreach specialist Shelley Bonus, who was the enthusiastic master of ceremonies decked out in outer space-themed accessories and clothing, reminded students: “You have friends in high places.”
Check back on Patch for more photos and video from the event.