Twenty Chinese students in Nanjing, the capital of east China's Jiangsu Province on Sunday spoke directly via amateur radio with an astronaut orbiting above them in the International Space Station (ISS).
The group of 20 students, aged 10 to 19, hailed from Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing. They began talking with Clayton C. Anderson, a 48-year-old American astronaut at 18:50 PM at the Nanjing No.3 Middle School when the ISS was passing over Nanjing.
Tang Jiewen, a student from Nanjing No.3 Middle School, asked the first question: "Can you see the Great Wall from the ISS?"
"I'm sorry that I haven't seen it yet, but we hope to see it," Anderson's voice came through clearly over the radio.
He also answered other questions popped out by students during the 10-minute conversation. He explained that robots are used to do simple work like fetching things.
"This is the first time Chinese students have participated in the Amateur Radio Program on the International Space Station (ARISS) and spoken directly with astronauts onboard the ISS," said Wang Long, a teacher in charge of the Amateur Radio activities from Nanjing No. 3 Middle School.
"Through this activity, we hope to kindle enthusiasm among students in astronaut technology and radio communication," he said, "The activity should be promoted in more schools."
Questions were selected from the more than 200 proposed by students via email and hotline since August 4.
To ensure good communications the school purchased some ultra-short communication equipment worth over 100,000 yuan as well as the GPS software, Wang noted.
The school applied to the ARISS for the membership in April 2005. It has become the 311st organization to communicate with ISS astronauts.
Questions and Answers
1. Q: Can you see the Great Wall from the ISS?
A: I have not been able to see the Great Wall yet but I am looking for it and need to know where to look.
2. Q: Do you sweat in the space and how do you handle it?
A: Yes, we do sweat in space. And because there is no gravity we must use towels to wipe off the sweat.
3. Q: If air leak happens in the ISS, what emergency actions will be taken?
A: If we have an air leak we try to isolate which module is leaking and move closer to the "Soyuz".
4. Q: How do you handle the waste generated in the space?
A: We put the waste in tanks and put those tanks onto the progress vehicle and release the progress vehicle. It burns up on the earth's atmosphere as progress falls.
5. Q: Is it very quiet on the ISS?
A: No, it's very noisy. All the fans and pumps sould so loud that we need to wear ear plugs.
6. Q:What does your family think of your work in the space?
A: It's really neat and they are very proud of me and they are happy that I can do this.
7. Q:On the ISS, in which direction will the plants grow?
A: 5 days ago I started growing some plant but have not seen them yet. I believe they will grow in the direction of the light.
8. Q: How do you maintain oxygen supply on the ISS?
A: We get our oxygen from several places. First from tanks on the progress vehicle. Second, from tanks on the shuttle. Third, we make it through the progress of breaking down the water. Fourth, we burn oxygen candles that creates oxygen.
9. Q: What does it feel like when you go through the black-out-area?
A: It does not feel any different. Just wait a while and you are in contact again.
10. Q: Is there any robot on board the ISS?
A: Yes, we have the robotic arm from Canada.
11. Q: How far does the ISS fly per hour?
A: 17500 mph or 5 miles/seconds.
12. Q: How can you keep ISS on its own orbit?
A: ISS simply falls around the earth.
13. Q: What if you happen to get sick?
A: Luckily we have Dr. Oleg on board who is very good doctor.
14. Q: What if you lost connection with the ground? Is it possible for the spacecraft to go back to the earth automatically?
A: It is possible. If you have a very day to escape using the "Soyuz" vehicle to come back to earth.
15. Q: Have you ever seen some space junk with your own eyes?
A: I saw something nearby spinning around but was not sure what it was.
16. Q: Does earth look any different from it used to be?
A: We see lots of fires burning snow but it looks the same to me.
17. Q: What is the longest distance between the ISS and the earth?
18. Q: Which time zone do you use in the space?
19. Q: What do you feel about space walk (EVA)?
A: Cool and beautiful and I really enjoy it.
20. Q: What do the stars look like in the space?
A: The stars do not twinkle as much because there is no atmosphere, polluting. We can see them more clearly.
(Xinhua News Agency August 27, 2007)