Boulder Valley School District

Centaurus grad speaks to school from International Space Station

Randy Barber

Astronaut Jack Fischer spoke about his Warrior pride & experiences in space

Students at Centaurus High School had the opportunity to talk directly with NASA Astronaut and Centaurus alumnus Jack Fischer on Thursday, Aug. 31, while he is circling high above the Earth in the International Space Station.

“I think it is so cool. It is probably one of the best experiences I have had in my life so far,” said Centaurus senior Ian Jorquera. “It is not an everyday event when you can talk to not only someone who came from Centaurus, but is in space right now. I think that is so cool.”

The ISS Expedition 51/52 flight engineer and Air Force colonel graduated from Centaurus in 1992. Fischer earned his Bachelor of Science in Astronautical Engineering at the Air Force Academy and received a Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

During the half-hour event, Fischer answered several questions from students at Centaurus. The only rule was that the answers could not be something that you could simply Google, so Jorquera asked how astronauts protect their equipment and themselves from the impact of solar radiation.

“Since the atmosphere is what blocks a lot of the solar activity, I was wondering how they can counter it,” Jorquera explained. “I learned that they can’t counter it completely and have to deal with the effects.”

Fisher was originally expected to interact with students via a video feed, but flooding from Hurricane Harvey impacted the NASA’s Johnson Space Center, changing plans. Instead, the astronaut spoke via a voice connection over the Internet and the students didn’t mind a bit.

“I thought it was really amazing. It was an opportunity to show kids who may not necessarily be involved with this really cool stuff that is going on in space,” said Centaurus senior Daniele Reardon.

In this age of technology, Reardon paused to think about how amazing it was that they were talking to someone who is orbiting more than 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. 

“One of the things I noticed and was surprised with was that there was a little delay between when you would ask a question and when the answer would arrive,” Reardon said. “It was a small thing, only seconds, but you notice it. It made you think about the fact that they are hundreds of miles above you.”

During the talk, Fischer spoke to the gymnasium filled with students about the experiment that Centaurus had launched into space. The International Baccalaureate students at the school designed the experiment to test how fast bacteria grows in space, specifically in the gravity that can be generated on spacecraft.

“Knowing that he was the one that conducted it and seeing all the photos he has taken with our experiment is so cool,” said Abby Schmid, 2016 Centaurus graduate who worked on the project and now attends the University of Chicago.

As Schmid explains, it actually was the second version of their experiment. The first was lost during a launch failure, while they watched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

“Watching it all literally go up in flames was very hard,” Schmid said.

The students didn’t give up, however. Despite the setback, they tried again.

“We were able to make our experiment even better, which was great. Also, the timing worked out pretty well. It wouldn’t have been up there at the same time as Jack, if it wouldn’t have exploded. It all worked out in the end. I’m just glad that we eventually got it up there,” Schmid said.

The module has already been returned to Centaurus, where students are analyzing the data. The research may have impacts to future manned space flights, like those proposed to Mars.

In the next few days, Fischer is expected to return from the International Space Station. Based on the cheers on Thursday, he is most certainly a hero at his alma mater.

“Knowing that we have walked the same halls as someone who is now at the International Space Station is really cool,” Schmid said.

“This is someone we can relate to,” Reardon added. “This astronaut didn’t come from some super rich family 3,000 milesaway. He came from the same school. I think that is really amazing in terms of inspiring people.”


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