Columbia Mission Club

August 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
For some Buchanan high students the first day of school also meant their first day back on planet earth. The students spent the weekend inside a mock space station and today they got a special treat, live from the real International Space Station.

"Buchanan high school, this is Houston please call station for a voice check."

Yes, it's that Houston; the Johnson Space Center calling Buchanan High School. At this end, students of the Columbia Mission Club, on the other end, astronaut Greg Chamitoff, live from the International Space Station.

Chamitoff, NASA Astronaut, says "One of the great things about this job we get to do so many things, fun things? fly and diving."

Students got a little taste of what astronaut Chamitoff's life is like this weekend when four student astronauts spent 48 hours inside a mock space station built by the students themselves over the past four months.

Kristen Rollins, student astronaut, says "We had no sense of time, so we were fully dependent on mission control. They told us when to eat-- they told us when to sleep."

Students running mission control monitored the astronauts day and night, assigning them tasks and even creating potential problems.

Parmida Choudhury, student astronaut, says "Suddenly like co-2 like happens... So one of our astronauts has to go into lock-down. Another gets sick, another goes into lockdown, so the other two have to figure out the problem... and the sirens go off and it feels like it's real."

Adding to the experience was today's downlink with NASA.

Brock Schmalzel, student astronaut, says "We got thru all the hard experiments and everything... Going with 2-3 hours of sleep each night. This was awesome-- good way to end it."

Club advisor Paul Lake helped make it happen; he was astronaut Chamitoff's former college roommate. "I know him. I mean this is somebody I know and he is floating around like all the other astronauts. It's just very exciting. It makes it very real."

Club originator, Jim Esquivel, says "That was the most exciting part for me. Seeing their eyes light up, seeing how impressed they were. Just bringing it all to a big crescendo."

And impressed they were, especially when Chamitoff made this "zero-gravity" demonstration, "Everybody is an acrobat up here."

Jordan Martin, student astronaut, says "You never get to see that in real life... And he comes on TV and he's actually moving and just disappears-- I was like 'whoa'."

Jim Esquivel started the Columbia Mission Club 3 years ago at Buchanan. The high school is one of only six schools nationwide to do a live chat with an astronaut on the international space station.

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