Cosmic-Minded Inuit Chat with NASA Astronaut in Space

Inuksuk High School students in Nunavut spoke directly to NASA astronaut Donald Pettit aboard the International Space Station, with about 700 students, elders and community leaders looking on.

Inuksuk High School went cosmic on February 8 when nearly 700 students, elders and community leaders packed the auditorium to snych with astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Nunatsiaq News reported on the event, organized by the group Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), a NASA educational program whose volunteers link schools with the orbiting astronauts. The idea is to get students to think about careers in science, technology, engineering and math, the newspaper said.

These events are synchronized to the station’s orbit.

“As the ISS passes over a school or over another location that receives a signal from Station and relays it on to the participating school, there is typically a five- to eight-minute window for students to make contact with the crews aboard ISS,” NASA says on its space station website.

“In preparation, students research the ISS and learn about radio waves and amateur radio among other topics,” NASA continues. “Before their scheduled contact with the ISS, they prepare a list of questions on topics they have researched, many of which have to do with career choices and science activities aboard the ISS. Depending on the amount of time and complexity of the questions, from 10 to 20 questions can be asked during one of the sessions.”

Of 50 questions submitted by students from the school, 20 were answered by NASA astronaut Donald Pettit, who is midway through a six-month stint in space.

At least one student, Mary Omole, told the Nunatsiaq News that she might be inspired to undertake astronaut training, despite Pettit’s answer to her question on the most difficult aspect of being a spaceman or woman: being away from family.