Schoolgirls from Warwick quizzed a NASA astronaut about space travel - all while he was floating above Earth in the International Space Station (ISS).
Pupils from King’s High Warwick and Warwick Prepartory School chatted with astronaut Ricky Arnold today (Thursday April 19) in a special assembly where the school linked-up with the ISS from their hall.
The link-up was made possible thanks to the hard work of 16-year-old student Eleanor Griffin, who applied last year to ARISS Europe, a radio society who help people talk to the ISS, for a chance to speak to an astronaut in space.
Her application was accepted, which Eleanor said was ‘quite a shock’. It was the first ever application to ARISS led by a student rather than staff members.
She was the first to speak to Ricky, and admitted the nerves kicked in around five minutes before the link was made.
Eleanor added: “I was absolutely terrified. I don’t really mind speaking to people, speaking in public, on radio or TV, but speaking to people in space is quite a different thing.”
During the link-up which lasted around 10 minutes, pupils asked Ricky a range of questions such as how he coped with the lack of gravity, the weather on Mars, and what was the most beautiful part of Earth from space.
And despite a few technical hiccups, Ricky was able to answer several questions thanks to the engineers from ARISS keeping the radio link going.
Speaking after the link-up, Eleanor said: “It went really, really well. We weren’t expecting to be able to ask that many questions.
“To be able to get that many in before we lost contact was really, really good.”
This was the culmination of several projects the two schools had been running about space.
King’s High pupils had set up an amateur radio club to understand how communication with astronauts in space works, while Warwick Prepartory’s pupils built Mars Rover models and created descriptive stories about the Red Planet.
Headmaster Richard Nicholson said opportunities like this were very important to encourage girls to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
He said: “We know that there are far too few girls and women in science-related careers. These memories are the sorts of things that spark ambition.
“We just want the girls to find the things that lights their fire, and really inspires them.
“I thought today was fantastic. There was always anxiety from the ARISS team about how well and how clear the link would be with the ISS, but they have just been the most amazing and remarkable team. It’s been magnificent.”
Eleanor also has her sights set on a STEM career, hoping to go into engineering. She also revealed ARISS had encouraged her to study space engineering at the University of Surrey.