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Arkansas Elementary Students Talk With Astronauts On Space Station

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station took questions Thursday from students in northeast Arkansas.

Nettleton School District STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) students did something Thursday that no one in Arkansas has ever done – talked directly to astronauts inside the International Space Station.

The Jonesboro area school became the first in the state to livestream with astronauts in space after receiving a grant from NASA. Students from around Arkansas were part of a livestream of the event held on the Nettleton campus. Gov. Asa Hutchinson was present for a pre-livestream ceremony that included video salutations from numerous elected officials and a special message from the only president to hail from the Natural State, Bill Clinton.

“It was a great honor for me to work with the great men and women of NASA,” the former president said. He said later to the students gathered, “I can’t wait to see what you’ll discover. My best wishes to all of you.”

Astronauts Dr. Kate Rubins and Dr. Shannon Walker were slated to speak with the students.

Students in grades 3-6 embarked on a series of project-based learning activities related to the livestream with the station. Those projects included the creation of filtration systems and robotic arms, constructing space suits, and creating plant growth chambers.

During his remarks, Hutchinson said STEAM education is vital to the growth of the state. Many companies seek employees with STEAM related knowledge and skills, he added.

At one point during his remarks, the governor said he was talking to the CEO of an aerodefense company that might want to locate in Northeast Arkansas. He didn’t give any further details about the company or what it might want to produce in the region.

“This is an exciting day, not just for Nettleton, but all of Arkansas,” the governor said.

Construction began on the International Space Station in 1998 and it became operational in November 2000 when the first crew arrived. The space station has the volume of a five-bedroom house or two Boeing 747 jetliners. It is able to support a crew of six people, plus visitors. On Earth, the space station would weigh almost a million pounds. Measured from the edges of its solar arrays, the station covers the area of a football field including the end zones. It includes laboratory modules from the United States, Russia, Japan and Europe.

Clinton noted that he was the first president to send an email into space when he sent one to John Glenn who returned to space in 1998. Glen was the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. He would later go on to serve in the U.S. Senate.