County news: Students speak to astronaut Tim Peake

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Pupils were over the moon after speaking directly to British astronaut Tim Peake over the radio in Sussex yesterday (Monday, April 18).

Students at St Richard’s Catholic College in Bexhill asked Tim all manner of questions in the small window when the International Space Station (ISS) passed over.

St Richards Catholic College students making contact with astronaut Tim Peake plus ARISS' Keiran Morgan

St Richards Catholic College students making contact with astronaut Tim Peake plus ARISS' Keiran Morgan

The audience let out a huge cheer as the Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS) link ended after a couple of hours of build-up with presentations from the students, principal Doreen Cronin and the UK Space Agency.

Star of the show and year nine pupil Lucy Woolridge initiated and ended the link expertly, using her recently-gained amateur radio license, and was lost for words.

“I feel relieved, it was amazing but we were very lucky to be able to speak to Tim at all,” she said.

There was some tension as it took five goes by Lucy before Tim replied saying, ‘I hear you loud and clear’.

Fourteen students from St Richard’s Amateur Radio Club (StAR) got to ask the astronaut a question, with queries ranging from what experiments he was doing in space to whether or not he had ever overslept – he had once apparently.

Tim also answered questions on the ISS’ air quality, how he sleeps, how the food tastes, and what is it like to watch humanity.

The astronaut from Chichester said his biggest challenge has been getting used to living in low gravity which takes a couple of weeks.

Science teacher Julie Durkin did most of the organising to make the link happen and had to leave the room afterwards as she was so emotional.

St Richard’s was chosen along with ten other schools to speak to Tim and Dr Durkin was very proud of her students for remaining calm.

Bexhill mayor Maurice Watson joined pupils from year two to 13 in the Ashdown Road school hall.

The STEM Conference started with year seven pupils singing Starman by David Bowie before videos on how the school had been gripped with space fever and incorporated the universe into every subject.

Jeremy and Susan from the UK Space Agency explained what Tim was doing on the ISS and talked about the strains and stresses he goes through living with no gravity.

Then the UK operations lead for ARISS Keiran Morgan spoke about how they connected to the space station via the radio, calling the link, ‘probably the biggest experiment in your school life’.

Ms Cronin said the school would do their best to get Tim to visit the school once he got back to Earth after the ‘historic occasion’.

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