What a cool thing! There was teacher-astronaut Barbara Morgan on the screen, her dark hair floating around her head in waves, while kids quizzed her and three fellow astronauts on everything from the speed of a baseball thrown in space (very, very slow, as the astronauts demonstrated), to how astronauts exercise in space to prevent bone loss (after a demonstration of an in-flight stationary bike, the petite Morgan hammed it up by demonstrating how she could just reach right out and lift up her two larger male colleagues who were on either side of her – holding them up high with just one hand each).
Coko Roberts of Kellogg asked if they’d ever thought about becoming astronauts when they were kids – and several had dreamed of it since early childhood. Afterward, she said, "It was really amazing that I got to do that. It was really interesting seeing them up there and just talking to them. … They were totally weightless. They were bouncing around.” Coko said her third-grade teacher from Sunnyside Elementary School recommended her to her science teacher, in part, she figures, because she’s acted in a melodrama theater production. “She knew I wasn’t bad in front of a crowd, so she knew I would be able to do it,” the youngster said.
Gavin Tosten, who’s almost 12 and wants to be a fish and game officer when he grows up, said he figures he’s now the only person from Grangeville who’s talked directly to people in outer space. “It was very cool,” Gavin said. “If it weren’t for my teacher, I definitely would not be here.”
The 18 Idaho youngsters who questioned the astronauts were selected by their science teachers. “It’s such an awesome experience,” said Gavin’s mom, Michelle Tosten, who watched from a few rows back along with dad Joe and little sister Jolie. “He’s been just very excited.”
Z.J. Mayton, a 6th-grader from Lewiston, said she’s decided that when she grows up, she’d like to work in mission control. “I don’t really want to be an astronaut,” she said, launching into a discussion of the effects of space travel on growth of the spine. “I decided I want to be like Houston.”
The kids sat through speeches from dignitaries including a U.S. senator, a congressman, a mayor and NASA’s top education official and then questioned another NASA astronaut, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, until it was time for the live down-link from space.
Eyes sparkling, Z.J. said, “It was really exciting. At first I had so many butterflies in me, and the speeches did not help, when they’re saying it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” But, she said, “It was just really cool to be able to talk to Barbara Morgan and her crewmates.”
Sarah Blum, a 14-year-old from Moscow who’s going into 9th grade, said, “It was just really fun talking to her and being in Boise.” Space travel, she said, “looks fun.”
Among the dignitaries who spoke before the linkup was Lori Otter, Idaho’s first lady, a former teacher who came in place of her husband, Gov. Butch Otter, to deliver a proclamation declaring “Idaho Reaches Into Space Month.” Said Mrs. Otter, “I can just say as a teacher, this is way cool!”
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo said anyone seeing what’s happening in the U.S. space program would want it to continue. “I’ll be a strong voice for it,” he said.
State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna declared it a “great day for education in Idaho,” and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter proclaimed today “Barbara Morgan Day” in the city.
Metcalf-Lindenburger said she expects that in the future, space travel will become much more common than it is now. “I would hope that someday, a lot of us would go into space,” she said.