Cache County students speak with NASA astronaut aboard International Space Station

RHS Senior Rainn Frandsen was able to ask Expedition 68 crew member Astronaut Josh Cassada one of twenty questions asked during the transmission

LOGAN—“Welcome Ridgeline High to the International Space Station,” Astronaut Josh Cassada said to Ridgeline and Sky View high school astronomy students who were able to experience a unique opportunity to contact the International Space Station on Tuesday, Feb 11.

Cassada sounded almost as excited as the students as he thoughtfully answered their questions, including what he felt his biggest personal goal was while aboard the ISS.

“I am lucky enough to say that we’ve accomplished it while we’ve been up here,” Cassada said. “My biggest goal was to leave this place better than we found it. We’ve been able to do incredible things up here both inside and outside the station.”

The live communication was about 10 minutes long while the ISS passed overhead and the students were able to ask Cassada about 16 questions before the communication was lost.

RHS Astronomy students asked an International Space Station astronaut 16 questions during 10 minute contact.

“It only lasted for 10 minutes,” Ellie Stephenson said. “Ten minutes I will never take back and I will never trade”

The activity is part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station Program and the equipment for the direct link to the ISS was provided and operated by volunteers with the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club (BARC).

RHS Senior Rainn Frandsen asked which movie, television show or book inspired Cassada to become an astronaut to which Cassada answered the movie The Right Stuff  and his first physics book.

“I am like a huge nerd when it comes to movies and stuff, that’s why I asked that question about movies,” Frandsen said. “It was just cool to see how much that could influence somebody like an astronaut.”

CCSD Secondary Teaching and Learning Director Brittany Foster and RHS Astronomy Teacher Emma “Super” Smith, along with members from BARC, prepared and submitted a proposal with a synopsis about the many lessons and activities the students would participate in that would incorporate the goals of the program while the BARC team wrote a proposal about the technology piece and how they would make that work.

According to the ARISS website, the goals of the international organization is to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and math subjects, provide educational opportunity to learn about space exploration, space technologies and satellite communication.

RHS was one of only nine schools or organizations in the U.S. to be selected for this unique opportunity this academic year.

“It was pretty cool,” Foster said. “Not as cool as the actual event but it was pretty fun to be selected.”

Foster said she could tell Cassada had taken the time to read the questions submitted to ARRIS before contact and loved that he referred to the students by name.

It’s really good for our students to see science in action and to see how the little things that they learn about in class each day are actually happening in the real world,” Foster said. “It helps it make what they are learning feel so much more important and applicable to them.”

RHS astronomy students were able to ask an International Space Station astronaut 16 questions before the transmission was ended.

Foster said she asked Smith to be the teacher for the course because of her passion for space and ability to connect all of the aspects into one project.

“She loves space and teaches the astronomy courses at Ridgeline and is very passionate about NASA projects and about space education,” Foster said.

Smith said she helped prepare the students with two astronomy classes and an additional course which she created called Space Exploration.

“I think in this age, most particular, space exploration is now a thing again that people are talking about,” Smith said. “We had a nine-year gap where we didn’t even have the capabilities to launch a human from our soil and now, we’re back into that.”

Smith said this was a childhood dream come true and she said the transmission was one of the clearest she had heard.

“That’s the clearest I’ve ever heard a transmission,” Smith said. “I’ve listened to, I’m not going to say how many, ARRIS feeds.”

The students were beaming with excitement after the contact.

“I feel like that didn’t happen and it’s not real,” RHS senior Abigail Olsen said. “It’s been such a long time in preparation that it’s unreal to me that it happened.”

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