Hart District students hear live responses from ISS astronauts
La Mesa Junior High School students gathered in the school’s multipurpose room and attentively listened Tuesday morning as International Space Station astronauts provided live responses to questions about space exploration submitted by students from every William S. Hart Union High School District campus.
NASA selected the Hart district school to participate in an Earth-to-space call with astronauts Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet, who took turns responding to the pre-recorded questions from district students.
Arroyo Seco Junior High School student Maddie Finkbiner asked astronauts to talk about the largest obstacles facing NASA in sustaining life on Mars.
“Radiation,” said Pasquet, adding another challenge is living in a confined space with little to no gravity for extended periods of time. “We have to find a different way to protect ourselves.”
Finkbiner said she thought Pasquet’s answer was brilliant.
“He gave me the answer I was looking for,” she said. “I wanted to know the obstacles, and he gave me the obstacles and I’m really excited to see how NASA decides to face those obstacles and figure that out.”
Oliver Evetts, a student at the Academy of the Canyons, wanted to know about the impact an astronaut’s environment has on their confidence and stress in their work.
“Your mental preparation and the training that you do on Earth will be quite similar,” said McArthur, noting she hasn’t given that question much thought. “The biggest difference…is going to be how much farther away you are, so you’re a longer trip away from home.”
Evetts said he purposely left his question openly vague to see what direction the astronauts would take with their answer.
“It was actually exactly what I had hoped,” he said of McArthur’s answer. “It was a relatively deep look into something that isn’t normally talked about.”
Representing Sierra Vista Junior High School, Omar Jimenez asked about how moon exploration will help future Mars missions.
McArthur said she thinks of the moon as a “stepping stone toward our further goals.”
“Here on the space station, we are always conducting technology demonstrations in water purification systems to air purification systems,” she said. “Those kinds of things that will enable our stay on the moon and so, similarly, the things we learn to enable our habitation on the moon is going to enable us on Mars.”
These students were among several who were selected by teachers to represent their campuses, according Julie Huffman, the science curriculum specialist at the Hart district.
She said teachers were asked to “select the student from their school that best represented them, that was enthusiastic about science, especially astronomy.”
“I think that there’s a definite commitment to science in this district,” said Huffman, who is responsible for implementing the Next Generation Science Standards at district schools. “(The Hart district is) doing a great job of supplying hands-on science into our schools.”
An “extraordinary opportunity” like the one experienced by students Tuesday may help to ensure that “your future is out of this world,” La Mesa Principal Michelle Krantz told students.
“It’s our hope that you will be inspired,” she said, noting career options in astronomy and aerospace. “Those jobs can be yours one day.”
Students also received encouragement from district Superintendent Mike Kuhlman, Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda and Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, who is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
Garcia told students not to underestimate themselves.
“It’s because of… the interest that you take that will allow us to get to Mars in the next few years, to be able to land the first woman on the moon in the next few years, to continue this massive expedition into space and really prove to the world just how successful we are as Americans.”
Hart district board President Cherise Moore said the event was a special moment for the district.
“What we do in our school, what we do right here matters,” she said to students. “We, like they, are called in this critical moment in time to be a bridge – to bridge any distances between us and work collectively to show how much more is possible when we dream together.”