Students from Ockerman Elementary were treated to a video conference with an astronaut currently in space. Colonel Mark Vande Hei, who is a Flight Engineer is from Minnesota. He spent 45 minutes talking with 60 students. Colonel Vande Hei traveled to the International Space Station in September on Expedition 54 joining a crew of six, astronauts from Russia, Italy and the U.S.
The students asked their own prepared questions and offered space jokes. Among the many questions asked, one student asked what it feels like to be in space and Colonel Vande Hei demonstrated a gymnastics move, something similar to a double Forward Roll to much student applause. He said he constantly feels like he’s upside down because there’s really not a right side up in space. Another student asked how he drinks in space and he demonstrated through a package of water using a straw. He showed them that if he doesn’t pinch off the straw when he is finished a bubble of water will float out of the straw and around the cabin.
The students allowed to participate in the video conference ranged from 1st to 5th grade including one kindergartener. Because only 60 students were allowed to be in the audience, each student in the school had to write an essay explaining why they should be selected to participate in the conference.
Colonel Vande Hei along with fellow astronaut Joe Acaba and cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos have been in space almost 5 and a half months. They plan to undock their Soyuz spacecraft from the International Space Station and return to earth landing in Kazakhstan on February 27th 2018.
Colonel Vande Hei was invited to speak to the students at Ockerman Elementary by his friend and former classmate Cate Kruth, a Boone County Schools Speech Pathologist. Kruth went to high school with Colonel Vande Hei and she and her husband have remained friends with him over the years.
No cameras or recording devices were permitted during the video conference.