NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Astronaut Drew Morgan came in loud and clear from aboard the International Space Station Tuesday morning with an auditorium full of students listening.
“My stomach was in my chest the whole time we were waiting for them to pick up,” said River Ridge graduate Laura Nowicki.
“River Ridge High School welcome aboard,” Morgan said while traveling 17,000 miles an hour and 254 miles above River Ridge High School.
It was the moment students, with the help of some ham radio experts, had been working toward for months.
“It’s definitely a bit surreal that I was able to talk with somebody up in space,” said student Ryan Myrmel.
The communication window was limited to less than ten minutes, so the teens lined up with questions ready to go.
“After being on the ISS, would you want to go to Mars? Over,” asked a student.
Morgan answered: “My mission to the ISS is nine months long. A round-trip to Mars would be more like about two years. That would be a long time. I think I’ll be ready to take a little break and regroup with my family for a year or two before I think about going to Mars.”
“I was really nervous, and I had butterflies, but I thought it was really awesome, and the connection came pretty clear,” said student Emma Goulba.
River Ridge is one of just nine schools picked to be a part of the ARISS program.
ARISS stands for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.
“It was rocket science, right? It was a task that seemed insurmountable, but really if you do break it down into manageable parts and you do a little bit of learning and studying and get some really good people around you, you can make it happen,” said River Ridge media technician Linda Nowicki.
This is just the beginning at River Ridge. They bought their own equipment and have plans to communicate more using satellites and even bounce their voices off of the moon.
Members of the Gulf Coast Amateur Radio Club assisted the school in making this happen.