Port Elgin students have Internet chat with Canadian astronaut

Joan LeBlanc
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Students in grade 6/7 Glencross and 6 Thebeau at Port Elgin Regional School chat with Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen during a Skype session in their classroom on Tuesday. The students had the opportunity to ask Hansen lots of questions about being an astronaut and his work with the Canadian Space Agency and NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Hansen will be working as ground support to assist the six astronauts currently on the International Space Station to complete upcoming repairs to the exterior of the orbiting space station.  LEBLANC PHOTO

PORT ELGIN, NB – Some students got the chance to chat with a Canadian astronaut at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas on Tuesday,

while sitting in their classroom at Port Elgin Regional School.

Through Internet technology and the use of the on-line program Skype, students in the 6/7 class of Catherine Glencross and Sylvie Thebeau’s grade six class spoke with Jeremy Hansen, a CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Armed Forces who is currently also part of the Canadian Space Agency working with NASA in the US. During the session a web camera and microphone set up both in Port Elgin and in Houston, broadcast Hansen and the local class via Internet so both could see each other in their locations.

During the exercise Glencross explained that in January she had applied to for her class to speak with a member of the CSA and after several months received notification that a Skype connection would be set up so the students could talk live with Hansen.

“Jeremy Hansen is an inter-vehicular technician…he’s going to tell the astronauts the best way to fix problems on the International Space Station (during the space walk outside of the space station, scheduled for Wednesday, April 23). He will basically be in control of what gets done outside the space station. He is considered a rookie and it is considered quite an honour for him to be given this opportunity. He has a lot of skill and people at the Canadian Space Agency and NASA have recognized this,” she explained to the students prior to the Skype session.

The students had prepared a number of questions for the astronaut and listened as he pleasantly and patiently talked about the many facets of being part of the international space program and his life preparing for his present role as an astronaut.

Hansen first asked Glencross to pan the camera around the room so he could see the students, then individuals took turns speaking to him. He wished them Happy Earth Day they did the same.

“This is a special day and it reminds me how special our planet is and how we all need to work together to take good care of it,” he said.

Hansen spoke about his early years growing up on a farm in Ontario, going to university then joining the Canadian Armed Forces and training to be a fighter pilot.

“I started off exactly where you are and now I have this wonderful opportunity to fly in space on behalf of Canada,” he said.

He went on to explain that currently there is something broken on the outside of the International Space Station and he will be coordinating the repair of that particular part on Wednesday. He went on to talk about the work of the six international astronauts currently living and working in outer space.

“When they go outside they wear special suits that here on earth weight about 200-300 kilograms each, but in space they don’t feel that weight…the space station is travelling 28,000 kilometres per hour all of the time and it’s travelling 400 kilometres above the earth,” Hansen explained.

Students asked many interesting questions including what are the biggest challenges in living and working in outer space; what Hansen likes the best about being an astronaut, what does a human being need to have to be able to live in outer space, who finds any problems that occur on the space station, what it looks like in outer space and why he decided to become an astronaut.

Hansen answered all of their questions, but noted that the most important aspect of all is for astronauts to take good care of each other while they are working in space and he urged students to look after each other.

“And always remember to follow whatever you are passionate about in your life and you’ll get to do amazing things,” he urged.

Organizations: Canadian Space Agency, Canadian Armed Forces, NASA Johnson Space Centre Port Elgin Regional School International Space Station

Geographic location: Port Elgin, Houston, Texas, CF US Houston Ontario Canada

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