Avoca State School students will be dialling in to the International Space Station this week to chat to astronaut Colonel Mike Hopkins who calls the cosmos home.
The out-of-this-world opportunity came about after the school was approached by the Bundaberg Amateur Radio Club last year to form a submission to the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program.
ARISS lets students worldwide experience the excitement of talking directly with crew members of the International Space Station, inspiring them to pursue interests in careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and engaging them with radio science technology through amateur radio.
The school's Principal Michael Kiss said he included Bundaberg’s strong link with aviation and aerospace as part of the submission.
“Bundaberg Regional Council, in conjunction with CQUniversity and the Department of Education, has a current proposal to develop Australia’s first Challenger Learning Centre aimed at STEM lessons in schools,” he said.
“That, plus the fact that a piece of Bert Hinkler’s glider was on board the ill-fated Challenger mission, but was later recovered from the sea and is now an exhibit in the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, assisted us with winning a contact opportunity.”
International Space Station contact fast-tracked
Mr Kiss said the school had expected to wait up to 18 months to find out the outcome of their submission but were overjoyed to know they had been fast-tracked to March this year.
He said through a partnership with the Bundaberg Amateur Radio Club, students would be ready for contact with the astronauts to commence at 5.56pm on Thursday, 11 March.
“The club has spent several months procuring, building and testing the Yagi antennas and associated equipment required to make the contact to ensure that there are no hiccups on the night,” Mr Kiss said.
“12 students from our school leadership team have been selected to pose the questions to astronaut Colonel Mike Hopkins.
“They need to be well practised as the maximum contact time will be 10 minutes and 28 seconds.”
Mr Kiss said negotiations had directly involved NASA to coordinate the contact with the astronaut’s work duties and sleep time.
He said students and teachers had further prepared for the event by watching vision of spacewalks and life aboard the ISS.
“Several different types of models have been built by students to reflect their understanding,” he said.
“This will be a whole school community event, with parents, students and staff in attendance and the school will celebrate with a themed free dress day on Thursday.”
Mr Kiss said as result of a partnership with Kepnock State High School, all students have had an opportunity to take a virtual tour though the ISS using VR headsets.
“This unique opportunity has been a source of delight for many of our students and has further built anticipation for Thursday's big event,” he said.