Thursday, September 24, 2009

Astronaut Thirsk chats to Vulcan students from space

The Alberta town of Vulcan likes to play up its fictional link to Star Trek, but the area's use of technology gave its students the chance to chat with Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk in space.

Nineteen students from the Palliser Regional Schools division spoke to Thirsk and three of his crewmates via a downlink from the International Space Station on Wednesday.

Thirsk, who graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Calgary in 1976, blasted off to the space station in May for a record-setting mission that will last six months.

In the 15-minute session, students asked the astronauts what they did with their garbage, how they heat food and how to get in and out of a space suit.

The Canadian Space Agency chose the school division for the event because of its use of technology including video conferencing in teaching.

"We are really starting down the road of video conferencing between our schools and the outside communities," said Sharon McNiven, vice-principal at Country Central School, where the event was held.

"Quite the experience for all of us. We had to show that we had what it took to put on the presentation. It makes us feel very proud."
'Live long and prosper'

The chat was also webcast to classrooms around Alberta.

"I think this is a really cool experience. Getting to talk to an astronaut in space and finding out what actually happens up there is so neat," said Jadeen Howe, a Grade 12 student at County Central School.

Thirsk bid the students farewell with the Vulcan salute and "Live long and prosper," the phrase made famous by Spock, a character from Star Trek who was born on the planet Vulcan.

The town of Vulcan has used the Star Trek connection to drum up tourism, even blasting into the headlines earlier this year during a failed bid to host the world premiere of the science-fiction franchise's last movie.

No comments: