Oct 19, 2022 - News

Aerospace students ask questions of astronaut on Space Station

A Davis student is shown speaking into a microphone of a ham radio while another student waits. Radio operators are in the background. Everyone is on a stage.

Tenth grader Eric Williams (left) asks a question via amateur radio. Photo: Annalise Frank/Axios

Thirteen Davis Aerospace Technical High School students stepped up one by one yesterday to ask an International Space Station (ISS) astronaut questions via ham radio.

Driving the news: Davis, where 74% of students have an aviation class, was chosen to communicate through the national Amateur Radio on the ISS program.

  • Students' 10-minute Q&A started at about 1:30pm with astronaut Koichi Wakata as he orbited Earth.

What happened: Students came up with the questions, Janine Scott, a master teacher at Davis, tells Axios. They posed them on stage during an event at the school, with subjects ranging from studying lightning to what it feels like to take off.

  • "How long can you stay in space until you need to resupply your oxygen, over?" ninth grader Demetria Story asked.
  • "We make oxygen from water … and the water itself is recycled from urine and sweat, so onboard the space station, we turn yesterday's coffee into tomorrow's coffee, over," Wakata answered.

What they're saying: "Amateur radio really is a stepping stone to careers in space-age communications and navigation," Joe Raznik of the Hazel Park Amateur Radio Club, which set up the technical connection alongside a Davis advisory group, said during the event.

Context: Davis, named after the first Black brigadier general in the Air Force, is a comprehensive high school in Detroit Public Schools Community District with an aviation focus.

  • Students learn about various jobs in the industry — and there's also flight training and drone piloting.

The intrigue: Founded in 1943, the school was previously at Detroit's city airport. But in a cost-cutting maneuver, it left in 2013 for the Golightly Career and Tech Center about four miles away.

  • "Davis was high school heaven. (Leaving) was basically a bad move for us," Scott says. "I cannot wait until we get back at the airport full time."
  • Back then, students could walk outside, look up and see planes, she says. And not just that, but also wave them in or more regularly help fix them.
  • There's still limited training at the airport.

What we're watching: Detroit got a federal plan approved for its long-languishing airport that makes it eligible for new grants. The city plans to use those in part to bring Davis back around 2025.

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