“It was just really awesome,” said Grade 12 student Kali Caulier.
She was still beaming several minutes after contact was made via amateur radio as the space station passed over Nova Scotia.
However, the event was as nerve wracking as a space rocket liftoff because it looked like contact, only possible during the 12 minutes the station was over the province, wasn’t going to happen.
After several heart-pounding minutes of dead air and static, amateur radio operators changed to a secondary frequency. There was applause from the crowd when Hadfield’s voice echoed throughout the gym.
The students ended up with just a few minutes to fire their questions before the space station moved out of range. That left some crestfallen faces as some didn’t get a chance to pose their queries, which they’d spent hours preparing and rehearsing.
Even Nicole Pelletier, the first to seek information from Hadfield, was a little worried that she would be able to ask her question.
“I was really relieved,” the Grade 12 student said after getting to make her inquiry.
“I think it went pretty well. These things are pretty unpredictable. I’m pretty happy with this experience.”
Pelletier asked Hadfield, “What is the best experience you have had while in space?”
“Walking in space. Being alone in space,” Hadfield replied.
Former Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau spoke to the assembled crowd about space travel.
He said Hadfield is making history because he will become the first Canadian to be in charge of the space station when he assumes command in March.
Hadfield has been wowing Canadians by tweeting pictures of the country, and the world, since rocketing into space in December, Garneau said.
The space station travels 28,000 kilometres per hour, the retired astronaut said.
“That is equivalent to eight kilometres per second. That is why you get around the Earth in 90 minutes. That is why you go around it 16 times a day. You see see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets every 24 hours.
“In his five months (in space), (Hadfield)is going around the earth thousands of times.”
When asked by a student what tunes he listens to in space, Hadfield said he enjoys a lot of East Coast music, such as Great Big Sea and Stan Rogers.
Answering a question about culinary offerings, Hadfield said there is a enough variety to please the taste buds of everyone aboard the space station.
Grade 12 student Jenna NcNamara asked Hadfield if he could see the effects of global warming from space.
“Yes, we can,” Hadfield said. “You can can see lakes drying up. You can see the ice melting on glaciers. There is all sorts of climate change, global and local, and you can see it all from the space station.”
Planning for the event, which began a year ago, was spearheaded by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station organization, an international group of amateur radio volunteers. Science teacher Paul Geddes was also instrumental in setting up the event.