VIDEO: Students Make a Call to Space
Five students asked questions to Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli in a contact facilitated by the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club
With Fair Lawn High School junior Zach Feinberg at the controls, five borough students were able to ask questions to Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli—an amateur radio operator manning the International Space Station—as Nespoli's shuttle passed over the high school for about 10 minutes before noon on Monday.
Watch a video of the event at right.
In a project called Amateur Radion on the International Space Station (ARISS), a “ham” astronaut speaks from the space station to amateur radio operators around the world when time permits. Fair Lawn High is one of only three schools in New Jersey that will participate in ARISS this year.
Feinberg, an honors physics student and a member of the Fair Lawn Amateur Radio Club, approached club president Gene Ottenheimer two and a half years ago about the idea to make contact with the ISS. After considerable paperwork submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in addition to preparing proper equipment and antennas to facilitate the contact, Feinberg's vision finally became a reality Monday.
Radio club member Dominick Interdonato explained to the 250 students in attendance at Fair Lawn High that antennas were mounted on the building's roof to "track the satellite from when it comes over the horizon until the end of the pass."
Interdonato showed the students a video of how astronauts use the bathroom in space—always "one of the big questions," Ottenheimer said—and then answered a variety of other questions before the contact took place. Interdonato noted that he shares a birthday with Nespoli, April 6, and said "that could be a good thing."
High school students Julia Burmistrova, Melissa Moore and Frederika Gilbert, in addition to elementary schoolers Joshua Wisse and Connor Ahredt, asked two questions apiece to Nespoli once Feinberg (calling with radio signal W2NPT) made contact with the shuttle (NA1SS). Feinberg asked a question as well.
Once the questions were finished, the room collectively thanked Nespoli by saying "Grazie, Paolo!"
James Marcella, Fair Lawn High's principal, called the contact a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us."