“How do you receive me? Over” : in the hall of the IUT de Nantes, more than 300 students, families and teachers hold their breath. It is 3:39 pm this Wednesday afternoon, and about twenty young people have the opportunity to discuss with Thomas Pesquet, live from the International Space Station. Crackling, barely audible responses the first two minutes, before hearing the voice of the French astronaut more clearly.
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10 minutes of questions and answers
The pupils whose questions have been selected have barely ten minutes to ask them: this is the time it takes for the ISS to cross Europe.“Does playing sports in space have a different effect on the human body?” “If the Earth was no longer viable, could any part of us go and live in space?” “What are the responsibilities of the Alpha Head of Mission?” Asks Adrien: “it’s a bit like the captain of a sports team!” Thomas Pesquet answers tit for tat. The funniest thing in space? : “is that we are constantly floating, it’s a pretty cool feeling!”
If the little ones in CM2 are primarily interested in life aboard the International Space Station, those who prepared the project in 3rd year last year are more concerned with environmental issues. “Apart from the scientific approach, what is the point of going to live on another planet when we do not already respect ours?” launches Annaëlle. Asked about the environmental changes and climatic disasters observed from the space between his two missions, Thomas Pesquet makes a stern observation: “We have seen very clearly the fires increase in power and frequency in summer, as well as tropical storms.”
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Less than ten minutes later, the connection is cut: two students of CM2, the red eyes, do not have time to speak to the astronaut. The others, them, are on a small cloud. “It was an incredible moment!”, “It was magic”, blow the little ones. “It’s a unique experience, you only experience it once in your life!” enthuses Lilou, in 2nd grade. “To be able to ask Thomas Pesquet a question while he is in space, and to have an additional answer … I felt really proud! adds his comrade. We are very lucky. It doesn’t happen to everyone. “
A one-year project
For the IUT of Nantes and the two partner schools of the “Allo space?” Project, the Sables d’Or college in Thouaré-sur-Loire and the Louis Armand school in Carquefou, this is the culmination more than a year of work. “With the health crisis, the Ariss organization, in conjunction with NASA, had blocked part of the so-called” telebridge “radio links to the ISS, explains Christophe Plot, teacher at the IUT and coordinator of the project. We are the only project to have obtained the approval to make a direct connection from the IUT site, via the association of radio amateurs. _There is no satellite, no relay. Everything is done live, with our antenna_, our transmitters, and those of the ISS. “
About ten mechanical and electrical engineering students spent the year building it. “We realized this motorized antenna which measures 4.5 meters high and 3 meters wide, explains Eloïse Madec, who participated in its design last year. It had to be high enough to pass above the horizon and the trees, so it is installed on the roof of the IUT. It asked _a lot of precision to establish the radio connection_.” A challenge for these students, crowned by these ten minutes spent in connection with Thomas Pesquet.