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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 September 2005, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Students encounter space station
International Space Station
Contact with the space station was made at 1228 BST
Pupils at a mid Wales school have boldly gone where few schools have gone before - into space to talk to an astronaut.

Students from Ysgol Uwchradd, Tregaron, put questions via satellite to John Phillips on the International Space Station, 220 miles (354km) above Earth.

The 16 pupils had 10 minutes with the flight engineer as the station passed over the Atlantic and then Wales.

Schools from around the world tuned in via the internet to listen.

Mr Phillips, from the United States, told the pupils how he and station commander Sergei Krikalev kept themselves entertained by reading, listening to music, checking emails and watching DVDs.

He also explained how solar panels powered the station and that space suits were generally "uncomfortable".

A map at the school traced the progress of the space station (circled bottom left)
I could just imagine him looking down on us from his little window in the space station
Pupil Charlotte Jones-Todd

Contact was made with Mr Phillips at 1228 BST. The school was the first in Wales to speak to an astronaut in space.

The youngsters, aged between 11 and 16, gasped as his voice came over the speakers in the assembly hall where all of the school's 364 pupils had turned out to listen.

Each student stepped up in turn to quiz the astronaut travelling at 17,000mph (27,359km/h) in the space station.

Mr Phillips answered the questions is detail, but the one that most impressed him came from Kayleigh Chandler.

She asked: "If you cry in space what happens to the tears?"

The astronaut replied: "That's the most interesting question of the day. I think they would probably stay on your cheeks or stay in your eyes until the tears evaporated."

Charlotte Jones-Todd, 16, who in July spent two weeks at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, asked Mr Phillips how long the oxygen lasted in space suits.

Pupils at the school wait to deliver their question
Pupils nervously waited to deliver their question to Phillips in space

She described the experience as "surreal".

She added: "When his voice came through I was so excited. It was so clear, much clearer than a practice run we had with a man positioned outside the school earlier.

"It was amazing to think I was speaking to someone in space. I could just imagine him looking down on us from his little window in the space station."

Chris Greenfield, head of science, at Ysgol Uwchradd Tregaron, took 18 months to arrange the chat.

Afterwards he said: "I've been teaching physics for some time and that was the most amazing science project I've ever had to do."

A satellite radio link-up had been set up on the roof of the mid Wales school to contact the astronauts.

Nasa astronaut John Phillips aboard the space station
Nasa astronaut John Phillips is near the end of his six months in space

Mr Greenfield, who worked at Nasa's International Space School in Houston for seven years before taking up his post in Tregaron, organised the link up through contacts in the amateur radio society.

In 2003, two other pupils from the school also visited the space school.

Mr Phillips is coming to the end of his six-month stint on the space station, part of the current crew, Expedition 11.

Mr Krikalev and Mr Phillips are due to return to Earth on 7 October.

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19 Apr 03 |  South West Wales


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