Students in Brooklyn connect with astronauts in space

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It may not be man landing on the moon but for students and faculty at PS 254, connecting with astronauts aboard the International Space Station is one giant leap for education.

"When I was a little kid, like 5 years old, I loved space," fifth-grader Artem Parshin said. "The planets and the solar system. I kept watching the same video all over again and over again."

After learning about space, Parshin inspired his teachers at PS 254 to apply for NASA's Year of Education on Station. The school, which prides itself on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, applied but was initially rejected.

"We had to make some improvements and adjustments. Just like in the engineer and design process, we have to improve," ass​istant principal Kerri Moser said.

After a little tinkering, the school was cleared for liftoff.

About a dozen students had the opportunity Thursday to ask questions to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). From more than 200 miles above Earth, astronaut Ricky Arnold told the students about the mission in space.

"It's really two-fold: we're trying to understand the planet we live on and how to improve life on Earth and we're also trying to figure out how to keep humans healthy and develop the technology that's going to carry us out into the solar system," he said.

The students looked on with wonder as the astronauts answered their questions while floating in microgravity.

"I know it seems unusual for me to spin the microphone in front of me here because on Earth you can't do that, but in space, these things are really very normal for us and passing each other the microphone or floating through the cabin seems very normal and that adaptation happens very quickly once we arrive in space," geophysicist Drew Feustel said.

Principal John Norton said he thinks many students were inspired to learn more about space.

"And that's the whole idea of the program is to peak more interest in space exploration," Norton said.

Whether Parshin or any of his classmates end up becoming astronauts or not, getting to talk to someone live in outer space was a lesson he and his teachers will never forget. After all, it's something he's wanted since he was a kid.

"It's so cool. I felt like my childhood dream coming true," he said.

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