"Here at the International Space Station, we hear you clearly." At Virginia Air & Space Center IMAX Theater in Hampton, Virginia, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst responded to Pamela Northam, the first lady of Virginia, who were saying, "It's Langley Research Center, Virginia Air and Space Center, do you hear me?".
Three seconds ago, Gerst could not respond to the first lady's call. Inside the hall, there were 800 students waiting. The astronaut is at a three-second distance on board the international space station, 250 miles away from the Earth, via control center in NASA's Johnson Space Center located in Houston, traveling among several satellites. As soon as his voice was heard, everyone in the hall burst into applause.
According to editor Kristin Damadeo, quoting a researcher from NASA's Langely Research Center, the student meeting, organized by the US state of Virginia in collaboration with NASA, is part of the efforts to encourage students to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math. Clayton Turner, Langley's deputy director, said that such experience was to help students discover their passion, as well as a serious attempt to give NASA and its astronauts the opportunity to share excitement with others.
As a former science teacher, Pamela Northam was motivated to organize the event on July 10, 2018. About 400 students from the Boys and Girls Club, 21st Century Community Learning Center and From One Hand To Another (FOHTA) organization participated, in addition to 400 students across Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The first lady has often expressed her happiness at NASA's role in inspiring and engaging "our next generation of scientists and engineers.".
Students cheered and applauded once the live broadcast at the IMAX Theater of VASC, featuring Alex Gerst on a 50-foot screen, began. They were given the opportunity to ask him about life aboard the station. Freshman Dusty Villman, from Hampton High school, was the first to ask, "What kind of technical training did you receive to make sure you can fix any mechanical problem you face aboard the International Space Station?".
"We really only have this one little oasis in a black universe, so we have to cherish it and really take care of it." That was Alex Gerst's last response at IMAX Theater, referring to the globe, loving to take pictures of that blue oasis from a window at the station. Despite learning a lot from NASA, he assured that had learned more from life.