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Antietam Elementary students flying high after radio chat with International Space Station

It took over a year planning and preparation, but then on Monday, December 11, 2017, their ship — the International Space Station — came in.

Students at Antietam Elementary School in Lake Ridge used a Ham Radio to speak with Astronaut Astronaut Mark Vande Hei.

The window to speak to speak to the station was short — about 10 minutes. And the timing had to be just right, too.

As the ISS made it’s approach over Virginia, flying in space at 17,500 mph over the U.S. from west to east, the students put out a call.

“NA1SS, this is KM4TAY for our scheduled contact,” said one student.

After about three tries, the space station came in loud and clear and the audio was piped over a loudspeaker for the more than 600 students that packed the school’s cafeteria to listen. Selected students lined up to ask questions about what life in space is like, about the food astronauts eat, about working in zero gravity, sleeping on a wall, and if an asteroid has ever stricken the station.

Vande Hei answered each question thoughtfully. While he did, the student body sat quietly and listened intently, raising their hands over their heads and waving them to show their excitement.

“We’ve been talking about this on the morning news every day for almost a month to get them ready for this,” said Principal Marcia Wieduwilt.

The school applied to be one of 20 to get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak to the ISS.

In preparation for the event, the administrators purchased a new antenna for the school’s ham radio club to use. About 30 students belong to the club.

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