Southside chats with astronauts

Xavier Smith • Nov 20, 2017 at 4:11 PM

Southside Elementary School students chatted with astronauts aboard the International Space Station on Monday and learned about their daily routines, future plans and more.

The group spent about 20 minutes with astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei via video chat, and several Southside students got the chance to ask the pair questions about space exploration, daily life on the space station and their plans for the upcoming holidays.

Southside student Chauncy Luna Pineda asked the astronauts how they plan to physically adjust when they get back from their mission. Bresnik launched into space in July and is set to return in December, while Vande Hei arrived at the space station in September and is set to return in February.

“I was wondering how do they move when they get back if everything feels heavier and stuff like that,” Pineda said. “In space, you float around, and here you walk because of gravity.”

Pineda said he’s interested in space and science but hasn’t decided on what his dream job would be. Southside teacher Leesa Hubbard coordinated the event and said she hopes it sparks students.

“We want our kids to feel like it’s obtainable. There are all types of jobs that NASA offers in engineering, science and everything else and there’s a lot for them to reach for,” she said. “Hopefully, this will spark an excitement in them that will carry over into their school and studies.”

Hubbard served as the facilitator for the NASA educational workshops at the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center from 1999-2002. She said she met astronaut Joseph “Joe” Acaba during her time at the center.

“I actually know him pretty well. He was a middle school math teacher before becoming an astronaut, and about 15 years ago, I did a fellowship at NASA headquarters that worked the educator astronaut program. I was kind of in the front end of when he became an astronaut, so it kind of came full circle,” said Hubbard, who, along with some colleagues, submitted a proposal to NASA on the school’s behalf for the event.

School board members Larry Tomlinson, Gwynne Queener and Larry Tomlinson were among school and state leaders who joined the event and bragged on the program.

“I thought the questions were exciting. The kids were so well behaved. It was really great,” Tomlinson said. “Technology just amazes me how we can stand here in Wilson County and talk to the space station and it be just as clear if they were right here with us.”

Southside held the event at Wilson Central High School due to ongoing construction at the elementary school, and Southside principal Frank Tittle thanked Wilson Central principal Travis Mayfield and his staff and students for their hospitality. 

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