One giant leap for Essex Heights Primary School

Astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor spoke to Victorian primary school students live from the International Space Station.

  • Why did you want to become an astronaut?
  • Does your body react differently in space?
  • And what happens if you get sick?

These are just some of the questions that students from Essex Heights Primary School had the chance to ask astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor.

Rather than visiting their classroom in Mt Waverley, Serena spoke to the students, their families and school community last Tuesday night from around 400 kilometres above Earth - live from the International Space Station.

School science coordinator Jenny Austin says the students were just so excited to do it.

'When you looked at the expression on their faces when they knew they were talking to Serena - you just saw this sense of wonder.'

Making contact

Essex Heights Primary School's contact with the International Space Station began in February 2017.

The school applied to run the event under the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. ARISS aims to inspire students around the world to pursue STEM careers by giving them the opportunity to talk to astronauts on the International Space Station.

After hearing their application was successful, students from Prep to Year 6 learned about space and what life is like on the International Space Station.

The students used this classroom learning to apply to be their class' representative for contacting the space station. To apply, they had to explain why they thought the International Space Station was important and why they wanted to interview an astronaut.

Twelve students from Year 3 to Year 6 were chosen to ask their questions. They waited patiently for the right time of day for the astronauts, the right workload for the crew, and the right flight path for the International Space Station to make contact with Serena.

The students spoke to Serena with the assistance of ARISS volunteers in front of a 400-strong audience at the school that included their families and school community.

'Serena was just wonderful,' Jenny says. 'She answered each question really well, and addressed her answers personally to the student.'

'It was also really great that our students got to ask questions of a female astronaut. Serena is a wonderful role model, and I hope she'll inspire them to pursue careers in STEM.'

You can watch the livestream on Youtube at Essex Heights Primary School students talk to the ISS.

Get involved

This was the second time Essex Heights students have made contact with the International Space Station thanks to the ARISS program.

Watch astronaut Tim Peake explain how an ARISS contact works on his video ARISS: Talking to Astronauts

Learn more about ARISS and apply for your school's students to have the chance to talk to an astronaut at their website.

Find out more about STEM learning in the Education State at VicSTEM.