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Omaha students hear from astronauts on International Space Station

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 5:55 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s not every day that students get to hear firsthand from astronauts who are living and working in space. But students from across the state on Wednesday did just that.

It’s thanks to a new 4H Extension program called ‘Launching Nebraska-nauts.’ 27 students out of 120 were selected to have their burning questions recorded and sent to space to be answered by those on the International Space Station.

Seventh and eighth-grade science teacher Deanna Mullen heard about the program and sent emails to students asking if they’d like to participate.

“At the beginning of the school year they asked do you have some students who would be interested in communicating questions to the astronauts at the space station and I thought, ‘oh my gosh what an opportunity!’”

One of those students was an 8th grader in Mullen’s class, Maddie Caldwell.

Maddie spent Wednesday in Grand Island, where the program is centered, but her classmates were able to tune into the day’s activities after her school, St. Stephen the Martyr, was chosen as a satellite school.

“How do you overcome the language barrier when working with astronauts from other countries?” Maddie asked.

Her question was answered by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

“I think first of all, you have to work hard on foreign language, it never ever comes easy, but it’s very valuable. You have to study, there’s a lot of stuff on the internet you can use to get to an intermediate level, but for the next step, you have to go abroad, you have to immerse yourself in other cultures, and that’s what everybody here does, I mean we train in Russia, in NASA in Houston, Texas, we train in Europe, Japan, you go there and meet new people and that’s how you learn foreign languages,” Pesquet says.

“You have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and sometimes you feel like you can’t express yourself as well as you wish you would, but I think the result goes a long way, you learn a lot about other cultures, other people and it opens up your mind and its fantastic, so I think a lot of hard work, being willing to go there and take that extra step and get out of your comfort zone.”

Students asked the astronauts everything from how they work together to solve tough problems, to how they play sports and exercise in space. One student even asked if they can still eat beef while they’re there.

“It really gave the astronauts the chance to open up about life on the space station and what they do there,” says seventh-grade student Grayson Davis. “It’s just a once in a lifetime opportunity and it just, it’s really amazing.”

Mullen says seeing the interest on her student’s faces was one of the best parts.

It’s events like these that help young students envision their futures, she says.

Students like Grayson, who hope to one day pursue a science or space-related career.

“100%, I just love how fascinating it all is and just so much to explore,” he says.

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