Students at Mendez Intermediate School in Santa Ana Unified spent part of their morning Thursday peppering an astronaut with questions about life in outer space.
Astronaut Ricky Arnold, orbiting about 255 miles above California on the International Space Station, answered the gamut of questions through a live audio stream, ranging from what research his team is currently conducting to how they use the bathroom in zero gravity.
Mendez students talked with Arnold through NASA’s ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) Program, which promotes science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, learning opportunities in schools.
Student Jazzlyn asked, “I’m always losing stuff. Have you ever lost something in outer space?”
Arnold answered that he has not, and that astronauts travel with only the bare necessities to help avoid such a problem.
Victor, another student, asked, “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up. What advice can you give me?”
The astronaut told Victor to continue studying hard. He also advised him to actively pursue STEM courses in high school and college because the space program is always looking for more graduates from those fields.
Student Vanessa asked, “What’s the thing you miss the most while you’re on the space station?”
Arnold answered that he missed his family the most. He looks forward to weekly video conferences with his wife and children so he can stay up to date with life back on Earth, he said.
Astronauts on the space station regular speak with students throughout the world through the ARISS Program. For the astronauts, who come from from a variety of countries including the U.S., Germany, Russia and China, it provides an opportunity to chat with students about how cooperation among people with diverse backgrounds can strengthen the common goal of space exploration.
For the students, it offers a unique experience of learning about STEM from those currently working on the International Space Station.