Local Students Talked to Astronauts on the ISS


Ava Paulsen, Editor in Chief

On Tuesday August 31st, the William S. Hart School District saw astronauts aboard the International Space Station answer questions asked by their students via a downlink hosted by NASA. The event was held at La Mesa Jr High School. NASA astronaut Megan McArthur and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet answered fourteen pre-recorded questions in the live stream covering topics ranging from life and science on the space station to Artemis, NASA’s new lunar exploration mission, and the Gateway, which is a small lunar space station currently in orbit. 

The event’s theme “your future will be out of this world” was echoed in the inspirational messages from the speakers including Superintendent Mike Kuhlman, Mayor Bill Miranda, Congressional Representative Mike Garcia, School Board President Dr. Cherise Moore, and Mrs. Michele Krantz, Principal of La Mesa Junior High School. 

The twenty-minute live stream began at 10:40am and the seventeen students that were selected from high schools and junior high schools throughout the Hart District watched as their questions were answered live by astronauts currently in space.

As the student representative from Castaic High School, I had the opportunity to pre-record a question for the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). My question concerned the fresh food analysis projects conducted on the Station and if in the future astronauts will be able to prepare their own meals with food grown in space. NASA astronaut Megan McArthur discussed their success with growing small crops up in space such as lettuce and their current project of hatch chile peppers which “take a long time to grow [as] they have a more complicated system,” McArthur explained, but “we’re excited about it” and they are hoping to see the fruits of their labors before coming back to Earth. 

Ffion Osahon, a student from Canyon High School, asked about the personal qualities one must have to be an Artemis astronaut candidate. Astronaut Thomas Pesquet outlined the importance of being easy to work with, adaptable, and having the ability to be a leader but also a follower. “To me, kind of the most important trait or aspect of personality is to be a team player,” says Pesquet, who has been aboard the Station on this mission since April 22nd. “[It’s important to be] somebody who’s easy to work with and to live with because the station is a workplace but it’s also a living place,” he said while pointing out that the astronauts are “living like a little family” during their time aboard the ISS.

This remarkable opportunity was coordinated by Julie Huffman, the science and curriculum specialist at Hart District. Huffman, who previously taught science and chemistry at Sierra Vista Junior High School and Golden Valley High School was very excited and spoke with the scientists coordinating the call at NASA. After the event, those at NASA said that “everyone over here is talking about the thought-provoking questions your kiddos came up with. Megan and Thomas really seemed to enjoy answering your students’ questions.” Overall, the entire downlink was an honor that is truly out of this world!