Augusta Prep students have conversation with astronaut

(Featured photo: AJ Tobar asks a question at the Aug. 31 program at Augusta Preparatory Day School. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News)

Ayanna Khiani’s eyes lit up as she related her experience talking to an astronaut Thursday.

“It was really cool,” said Khiani, an eighth grader at Augusta Preparatory Day School who on Aug. 31 had the opportunity to ask Dr. Steve Bowman, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, a question during a program from the school’s gym.

Being an astronaut had appealed to Khiani when she was about 5 or 6 years old but learning about Bowman and his job made her think again about a career in space, she said.

The brief call from space took about a year of planning according to Mary White, technology teacher for the middle and upper school, who submitted an application in August 2022.

Augusta Prep was one of seven schools selected nationwide by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program to contact ISS crew members, according to a news release from the school.

Members of a couple of amateur radio clubs including the North Fulton Amateur Radio League and Amateur Radio Club of Columbia County facilitated the experience.

It’s not as easy as just picking up a cell phone and placing the call. Months of planning was involved to determine the optimal positioning of the space station’s orbit in relation to the Martinez area. The amateur radio operators started setting up their equipment at the school on Aug. 28.

Daryl Young (center) of the North Fulton Amateur Radio Club talks to students at Augusta Preparatory Day School Aug. 31. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Despite all the preparations, the call was lost before the end of the allotted time.

During the call, the students read from a list of predetermined questions. They ranged from inquiries about Bowman’s training to the use of calculus in space to the emotional and mental effects of being in space for such a long period of time.

Bowman said most of his training prepared him, but there was nothing on Earth that compared to actually being in space. Also, they use the principles of calculus on a regular basis.

And the hardest thing emotionally, he said, was being away from family. They are only able to take a few photos into space, so no mementoes of home are with him.

They also asked a few questions that showed more of Bowman’s personality.

One question pertained to any hesitations he had in going to the International Space Station.

“I am not a huge risk taker by personality. I like things pretty stable,” he said.

Putting himself in the position to go into space was the most challenging part, he said.

Questions related to the psychological issues faced by the astronauts were the most interesting to freshman Josie Crawford, who wants to study that field in college.

“I know it has to be hard being without your family, without people who understand you,” she said. “It’s like quarantine.”

While Khiani was excited to be part of the program, she did have one question she really wanted to ask.

“What kind of food do they eat?”

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

Support local journalism: Local stories on local people, organizations and events. That’s the focus of Augusta Good News. And you don’t have to go through a paywall to find these stories. An independent voice in Augusta, Ga., Augusta Good News is not funded by a billionaire or a large corporation; it doesn’t have celebrity reporters who have agents. It’s local people who are invested in the community and want to tell its stories. You can support local journalism and help us expand our coverage by becoming a supporter. Through Ko-Fi, you can give once or set up a monthly gift. Click here to learn more. Thank you!