NEW: Calling outer space: County students speak to astronaut in orbit


As the voice began to crackle through the radio, nearly a dozen Palm Beach County students, their parents and others gathered at the South Florida Science Museum waited with excitement.

Seconds later, it was the moment the students may never forget. They were communicating live with Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli as he orbited the Earth aboard the International Space Station. For about 10 minutes, 11 students chosen from an essay competition got a chance to ask Nespoli questions.

What’s your biggest fear?

What’s the future of air travel?

If you had to return to Earth right now, what one thing would you like to accomplish?

The space station was about 250 miles above earth passing over the Florida-Georgia border as it made contact the science museum

Lucy Newmyer, a seventh-grader at Palm Beach Day Academy in West Palm Beach, was one of the students chose and described it as “an amazing experience.”

“My class just recently took a trip to the Kennedy Space Center where we got to talk to an astronaut,” she said. “But it’s completely different when you’re actually talking to one while they’re in space. I think it’s something I’m never going to forget.”

Newmyer wanted to know what Nespoli’s biggest fears were doing his mission. Nespoli explained that astronauts undergo extensive training and said his primary focus was completing the mission.

Eli Fratello, 9, a fourth-grader at Manatee Elementary School in suburban Boynton Beach, said he wants to pursue a career in the airline industry.

“It was really exciting getting to know what the future of air travel might be like ” he said.

Disika Parikh, a fifth-grader at Elbridge Gale Elementary in Wellington, said Monday’s event inspired her to want learn more about space.

The Science Museum participated in a similar event in 2012 and learned about three weeks ago that it had been chosen for this year’s even, said Kate Arrizza, the chief operating officer for the science museum.

Arrizza said the goal was to try to inspire more kids to become interested in science and technology.

“We really hope it kind of ignites a spark in them,” she said. “We’re really about STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Every year, fewer and fewer kids seem to be interested in space, astronomy So we’re trying to ignite that (spark). Things like this are the perfect way to do it. “



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