CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Students from the West Michigan Aviation Academy used amateur radio Thursday afternoon to speak directly to an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.
The students asked questions to Sultan Al Neyadi, who is from the United Arab Emirates.
“We did a little bit of research beforehand and then I formulated my question there in my class,” said sophomore Gavin Wiersum.
Sophomore Keira Amis asked a question about how the space station disposes of garbage and human waste.
“So we need to utilize a recycled water to purify that and reuse it but unfortunately, the solid waste we don’t have a facility to reuse that so we store them in barrels and send them to burn in atmosphere in a returning cargo vehicle,” Neyadi said.
Students were excited to have the unique opportunity to speak with an astronaut in space. They had about a 10-minute window for the transmission.
“I feel like every kid has gone through an astronaut phase and has been like, ‘If I was an astronaut this is what I wanted to do,’ so I think I had a vague idea. I’ve always been curious about like the logistics of everything like where does this go? Why are you doing this? How does it work? So it was pretty easy to come up with a question,” Amis said.
The students were assisted by amateur radio groups who had the equipment used to transmit directly to the space station as it passed overhead.
“It took many hours. I know my dad spent many hours late at night working on the coax on the equipment and they even, the week before, put the antennas on the roof with the help of a local contractor,” said Grace Papay, the radio control operator.
The school hopes having unique experiences like this will inspire students to pursue science and technology careers.
“I think it’s just great for our students to hear that and for our students to understand a little bit more about what it takes to put something into space and to get people to space and what’s required of the astronauts in space and I think it just kind of helps put that career path in the realm of the possible for our students,” said Bryan Forney, a science teacher at the academy.