Delta schools in live radio contact with ISS astronaut

Pupils from fourteen Delta schools asked their questions to Michael Lopez-Alegria
17 April 2007

Do you ever have arguments in space? Can you send text messages from the ISS? How do you steer the ISS when you are asleep? These are just a few of the questions Dutch primary school pupils put to International Space Station Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria during an amateur radio contact last week.

The so-called ARISS contact took place as part of the Delta Researcher Schools project, an initiative inspired by the spaceflight of Dutch ESA astronaut André Kuipers in April 2004. Supported by the National Centre for Science and Technology, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, ESA and NASA, the Delta project uses space exploration to promote science and technology to school children.

The pupils from fourteen different primary schools around the Netherlands gathered at the Space Expo visitor centre, in Noordwijk, from where the connection with the ISS was established. One-by-one they put their questions to the NASA astronaut.

Radio contact hosted by Space Expo
The radio contact was hosted by Space Expo in Noordwijk, the Netherlands

Julia from the Paschalisschool in Wijchen asked Lopez-Alegria what it smells like in space. Moments later, above the crackling on the line, the answer could be heard from on board the ISS. "Outside the Space Station we probably cannot smell because there is nothing to carry the odour. But inside the Station smells are just like they are on Earth."

Having learnt all about the International Space Station during classes at school, the children were curious to know more about life on board. "What kind of food do you eat in space, and is it tasty?", asked Max from the Noordwijkse School.

"Right now we are in the middle of eating dinner. We are having some pâté, olives and special breads," answered Lopez-Alegria. "There is a good variety of food up here. I guess it is pretty tasty."

Group photo after radio contact
A group photo following completion of the successful radio contact with ISS

Having arrived at the Space Station in September, Lopez-Alegria has now spent over six months in space, making him very well qualified to answer the question put to him by Lucy - how does it feel to be in space? "Imagine you are underwater in a swimming pool, but you don't have to come to the surface for air. Floating is a wonderful feeling, it is kind of half way between a fish and a bird."

Coming back to Earth is a bit less pleasant though. "You are a little bit dizzy and your legs are a bit wobbly," explained the ISS Commander, who will return to Earth later this month. "It takes a few days before you get your legs back."

After a round of applause to thank Lopez-Alegria for his participation, the radio contact eventually ended as the Station continued on its orbit around Earth. The school children were then given a guided tour of Space Expo before returning home to share their special day out with their classmates – after all it's not everyday you get to talk to an astronaut in space!

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