Missoula Story of the Week: Local Students Talk with Astronauts

By TOM DIDDEL

People often recount the years of their lives by the memorable moments they lived through.

Whether it’s the first day of school, the first time driving a car, or the watching the night’s sky as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, our lives are influenced and shaped by the experiences we have.

On Tuesday, Target Range students were able to talk to astronauts on the International Space Station via ham radio creating a memorable moment for both students and educators.

The opportunity for students to ask an astronaut, who was nearly 200 miles above their school orbiting the planet in a space station, questions presented itself after fifth grade teacher Kaye Ebelt submitted a proposal to NASA, according to KPAX.com.

The proposal was accepted and Target Range School was given the rare and exciting news that they would be speaking with astronauts on board the International Space Station.

The current crew of the International Space Station.

The current crew of the International SpaceStation.

Students will look back on the experience recalling the day when their school was chosen to contact astronauts in space and ask them questions as one of the defining moments in their scholastic careers. Pupils and teachers alike sat quietly in the school’s gymnasium as members of the Hellgate Ham Radio Club secured the link between the school and space.  Then students from several Missoula schools, including Target Range, began to ask their questions in rapid succession.

As the space station passed overhead, students had about ten minutes to ask questions ranging from how food tastes differently in space, to how tall you are in zero-gravity compared to your height on Earth. (For the record: Food tastes pretty much like you have a head cold and astronauts grow an inch or so because of weightlessness.)

The ten minutes were over quickly, but the impression of the event will stay with students forever.

We often hear how students in the United States are behind other countries in math and science, but fail to realize that interest in these subjects comes from positive experiences with them in the real world.

Teachers like Kaye Ebelt, who strive to give their students real world examples of how math and science are used in exciting and extraordinary ways, spark an interest in learning that stays with students far beyond the ten minutes a lesson lasts.

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Each week, Tom Diddel recaps the week’s most talked-about story in Missoula. Visit the Make it Missoula News & Opinion section for more talk of the town.

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Tom Diddel has lived in Missoula on and off for nearly thirty-eight years. He enjoys skiing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Montana and is currently working as a Freelance Writer and a Para-Educator.