Flight engineers on the International Space Station helped Sandy Hook Elementary School students celebrate the end of the school’s One School One Read program on Tuesday, April 8.
Seated inside Monroe’s Chalk Hill Middle School’s Lecture Hall, Sandy Hook School third and fourth grade students faced a projection of a Skype conversation with two astronauts, Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson.
The conversation was also shared live so students across the school and family members could tune in.
Tuesday’s event was the culmination of this year’s One School One Read, a program that has the entire school community read the same book at the same time, which was How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know by Susan E. Goodman.
“Station, this is Sandy Hook Elementary. How do you hear me?” Sandy Hook School Principal Kathy Gombos said at the start of the video posted by NASA. The video, called “Space Station Crew Discusses Life in Space with Students at Sandy Hook Elementary School” is posted to YouTube on NASA’s account.
“Sandy Hook Elementary, we hear you loud and clear. Welcome to the International Space Station,” Mr Mastracchio said.
This year’s One School One Read program began on Friday, March 14. During multiple presentations that day for different grade levels, Sandy Hook School library/media specialist Yvonne Cech and reading consultant Cynthia McArthur unveiled this year’s One School One Read.
Past One School One Read books have been The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White, The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling, Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins, The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney, Red Slider by Blair Hickson, A Bear Named Trouble by Marion Dane Bauer, The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies, Stuart Little by E.B. White, and Frindle by Andrew Clements.
During the last month, the Sandy Hook School community celebrated reading How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Tips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know through classroom activities, take-home exercises, and more.
For the Skype session to happen, Maryann Jacob, who worked on setting up the technical aspect of the event with Nelson Santos, said a communication unit was borrowed from the state. Staff members at the Newtown Municipal Center, including Director of Technology Carmella Amodeo, also helped oversee the conversation.
Ms Jacob said this year’s One School One Read and the ability to set up a conversation with the International Space Station “just played together so great.”
Ms Cech prepared students for the conversation with the astronauts by completing lessons and helping them to prepare questions that were asked during the interview. Sandy Hook School math/science specialist Kris Feda oversaw the students asking the questions.
Ms Feda said the event was, "One of the most exciting things we have been able to do. Talking to space was incredible. It makes you realize anything is possible."
Students asked questions like, “How do you brush your hair in space?” “Can you show us how you eat food and how those items are packaged?” And, “We read that each astronaut has to keep their packed personal items to a maximum of two pounds. What kinds of personal items did you bring with you on this trip?”
Every ounce and pound of things brought to the International Space Station is expensive to bring, Mr Mastracchio explained.
“So we are only allowed very few personal items,” Mr Mastracchio said. “Of course, I’ve got pictures of my family, I’ve got my watch, I’ve got a ring from my wife, I’ve got little pieces of jewelry from friends and family.”
He also had another item with him on Tuesday. Mr Swanson helped Mr Mastracchio, who is a resident of Waterbury, unwrap a Sandy Hook School T-shirt that he was able to bring up with him.
Mr Mastracchio said the Sandy Hook School shirt will be returned to students at the school when he returns from the International Space Station.
Students also learned that the astronauts complete experiments while on the International Space Station, and sleeping on the International Space Station is similar to camping, according to Mr Swanson.
“We have an area, it’s about the size of a tent, which are our little homes we have, our little room for us. And in there we have a sleeping bag,” said Mr Swanson, “and that is where we sleep, in a sleeping bag. It’s really a nice sleep. I feel very comfortable when I sleep.”
To wash their hair, Mr Mastracchio said astronauts use a no-rinse shampoo and wipe their hair afterward.
Moving around on the International Space Station with microgravity is fun, according to Mr Mastracchio, who completed a flip to prove it.
“Moving around the International Space Station in very easy, because there is no gravity,” said Mr Mastracchio. “It’s a lot of fun. You can fly around like you are Superman, almost.”
Showering on the International Space Station is a towel with some hot water in it, according to Mr Swanson.
“It’s kind of like a sponge bath for us,” Mr Swanson said.
Trash is managed in two different bags, one for the “wet and stinky” and one for other trash items, and all of the trash is transported by a cargo vehicle that then burns up on its way back to Earth, according to Mr Swanson.
Students also asked questions about how the astronauts prepare for safety issues, what inspired them to become astronauts, and how to become astronauts themselves.
Mr Swanson said he was inspired to become an astronaut after watching Star Trek when he was younger. He also told the students to work hard in school, do what their parents tell them, get good grades, and be the best person they can be to become an astronaut.
Near the end of the event, music teacher Maryrose Kristopik led the third and fourth graders in singing the Sandy Hook School song for Mr Mastracchio and Mr Swanson.
“Thank you very much. You guys sound fantastic,” Mr Mastracchio said.
By Wednesday, April 9, NASA’s video on YouTube had more 2,200 views.