District Makes Live Contact With Astronaut Scott Tingle Aboard the ISS

District Makes Live Contact With Astronaut Scott Tingle Aboard the ISS photo

Freeport became one of only 13 districts nationwide and the only one in Nassau County to provide its students with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak directly to an astronaut in space. Following a rigorous selection process by NASA, the district was chosen to make contact through ARISS, the Amateur Radio International Space Station, program.

The Performing Arts Center of the high school, which was transformed into a galaxy of astronomical proportions, was filled with the board of education, administrators, teachers, local elected officials and students eagerly anticipating this unique event. The district prepared for months to be ready for the remarkable opportunity to ask questions of astronaut Scott D. Tingle aboard the International Space Station, which was nearly 250 miles away from Earth and traveling at approximately 17,500 miles per hour.

“When I think about the excitement, curiosity, deep thinking and critical questioning our students have been doing in preparation for this event, I am invigorated,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kishore Kuncham. “We have been busily preparing for this awe-inspiring occasion, to provide you [students] with amazing and unforgettable experiences, to provide you with the tools to explore the outer world as well as the inner world, and to inspire you to be all that you can be: explorers, innovators, creators. I can’t wait to see where our next steps will take us.”

With excitement and momentum building, all district students participated in Discovery Days and research projects on space exploration and the International Space Station in order to prepare for this amazing event. Students submitted research-based essays and questions for astronaut Tingle. Ten students were selected from these essays from elementary school through high school to ask their questions.

The students who had been selected to ask astronaut Tingle their questions were Jonavan Figueroa from Archer Street; Johan Romero from Bayview Avenue; Sarah Boco and Giovanni Crisanti from Atkinson; Lesley Fernandez and Adisa Johnson from the high school; Jayden Easy and Brenna Igneri from Dodd; Gabriela Aleman from Giblyn and Ava Smith from New Visions.

The program was comprised of a variety of informative segments including the history of the Freeport Science Astronomy program by Director of Science Dr. Vincent Pereira, who was instrumental in bringing the ARISS program to Freeport, a Discovery Days video, and student essays. Long Island Mobile Amateur Radio Club Vice President Craig Ross presented information on “The Role of the Amateur Radio Operator.”

In conjunction with the amateur radio telebridge network with a ground operator in Italy, contact was made for about 10 minutes with astronaut Tingle as the ISS moved rapidly over the area. Students were fortunate to be able to ask almost 20 questions including the impact of space on immune systems to challenges faced by the astronauts during spacewalks. Astronaut Tingle was impressed with the thoughtful questions and provided detailed answers. It was a thrilling time for everyone in the audience and an experience they will not forget.

“This is close to my dream, I hope to go into things like theoretical physics,” said Adisa Johnson, who asked Tingle about how often the ISS must readjust its trajectory to stay in orbit. “Science [is one of] my favorite subjects hands down, so this is a big deal for me.”

“I’ve always had some love for astronomy and space, so I really put my effort into writing my essay and thinking of the question,” said Jonavan Figueroa, who asked astronaut Tingle what the typical duties of an astronaut are on his/her first day in space. “Having the chance to actually speak to someone on the International Space Station is just really amazing to me.”

The once-in-a-lifetime event is a testament to the district’s commitment to ensuring its students are provided with a sound STEM education and world-class learning opportunities, and stands as a momentous occasion that students will remember forever. Before contact was lost, astronaut Tingle stated he would see the students when he returned to Earth. The district hopes it will be able to meet him in person in the future.