Twelve schools from the Dutch Delta Researcher School project participated in a live radio contact with NASA astronaut Dr. Garrett Reisman, Expedition 17 Flight Engineer on board the International Space Station, on 23 May 2008.
The event took place at Space Expo, Noordwijk, and was a joint collaboration between the Delta Researcher School project (DRS - based at NEMO, Amsterdam), ESA's Human Spaceflight Education Team, Space Expo and Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS).
The schools won their place at the event after submitting questions to the DRS project leaders. Each school submitted five questions and the best ones were chosen. The questions were translated into English from Dutch, providing the students aged 10-12 years old with a chance to not only practice their English, but to also speak directly to Reisman.
The contact was lead by Gaston Bartels, Chairman of ARISS-Europe, who at 82 years of age continues to be proactive and enthusiastic. He explained to the students and teachers how the radio contact is established via ground stations when the ISS is not directly overhead.
Specially dressed in flight suits for the occasion, the children were given some initial training before radio contact was established with the International Space Station at 16:01 CEST.
The questions put to Reisman varied from: "I have braces because my teeth are crooked. I have to wear them for nearly one year. If you had braces in space, would they straighten your teeth faster?" asked by Inge Peters of the KBS Nicolaasschool in Heythuysen. (Answer: Unfortunately no, but the good news is that either way, your teeth will get straighter!).
Through to the question: "If you are in space for a long time and you can't take a shower or open a window, does the Space Station start to smell bad?," asked by Tim Daniels from ODS de Tjalk in Lelystad. (Answer: There is equipment on board to take care of this. I wish I had the same system at home! We don’t have showers but use wet towels to clean ourselves.)
During the 8-minute contact, the children were able to ask 15 questions and receive answers on an array of topics that fascinate and make young people curious about space and the Space Station.
After contact with the ISS ended, Hans van der Lande from Space Expo provided the children with a Dutch translation of the answers, as, for the majority; in their excitement when the responses came from Garrett they didn’t quite hear the answer fully!