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IOM School children talk to the stars! 22 October 2009

Nicole P. Stott, US AstronautOn Friday 19 October an amazing and awe-inspiring event occurred in the Manx Museum Lecture Theatre. At 12.30pm pupils from all of the Island’s Secondary Schools were given a guided tour around the International Space Station with an astronaut, who also happened to be wearing an Ellan Vannin t-shirt, floating around weightless in front of a Manx Flag.

US astronaut Nicole Stott is currently on board the International Space Station for three months, and very kindly agreed to allow one of her private family video conferences to be used in a video link to 150 Manx secondary school pupils. This live link to the International Space Station was a first for the Isle of Man, and was literally an out of this world experience. Nicole has strong Manx connections as she is married to Chris Stott. Chris is Manx born and bred, and has been our very own Ambassador for Space since 2003. He is also the Chairman of Mansat a Manx registered Company

A competition was held to find questions for pupils to ask Nicole whilst in space, and the winners got the very special prize of asking their question whilst appearing on the video link live to space. Nicole then answered each question in turn. We were all treated to seeing firsthand how astronauts brush their teeth and Nicole did a fantastic demonstration to show how to get in your sleeping bag in zero gravity and how you can sleep comfortably whilst upside down! All while the space station was 400km above earth over Australia.

The event commenced with an illustrated lecture given by Howard Parkin of Manx National Heritage, who set the scene perfectly for Nicole to appear on the lecture theatre screen.

Howard went on to say: “We can’t thank the Stott family and NASA enough for making this happen. Nicole made 150 children and the adults present speechless. Everyone who saw the link was in awe, and speaking live to an astronaut was a fantastic experience for all concerned. I truly believe that the link with Nicole has inspired a large number of potential Manx Astronauts!”

The Department of Education were fundamental in making this happen.

Ian Longshaw the School Improvement Adviser for the Manx Curriculum said: “Talking live to the International Space Station from the Manx Museum in the Isle of Man has got to be the ultimate “wow” factor. I’m sure it inspired everyone who saw Nicole that they can realise their dreams through hard work and ambition.”

The International Space StationNicole took the camera around the space station and gave a tour, spinning down the passages. The conference ended with an amazing view out of the window where we saw the start of the Sun rise and the blacker than black sky. She said in response to one of the questions that this was one of the things she found amazing, just how black the sky was.

The link concluded with an opportunity for the Education Minister The Hon.Mrs Anne Craine MHK to tell Nicole how inspiring her mission was, and express her gratitude to her and Chris for giving up their time together for the benefit of IOM school children.

The Minister went on to say ‘This unique event was awe-inspiring for everyone there. It is incredible that we are able to develop such opportunities for children in the Isle of Man through our space industry connections. ‘It is not long since we were teaching children about space by asking them to colour in cut-out planets and sticking them on a display board. Last week they made history by being able to speak to an astronaut whilst she was in space. Today really is “Tomorrow`s World”. ‘There were so many people involved in making this special event happen that I cannot thank them all but I really do want to place on record my thanks to Chris Stott and most particularly his wife Nicole, our “Manx” astronaut, who was delightful and took so much time in guiding us around the space satellite and telling us about life as an astronaut.

The technical aspect of the link was supported by Manx Telecom who very generously provided the necessary equipment and expertise to ensure all worked smoothly.

Chris Hall Managing Director of Manx Telecom said: “This must be the longest ‘long distance’ communication ever made from the Island – from Douglas to a Space Station orbiting the Earth. It’s not that long ago that a transatlantic phone call was a significant achievement, but the link up to the Space Station shows just how much the future for the next generation of Manx children is inextricably bound up with technology, and we were very happy to help make it all happen. Doing so involved a lot of hard work, and it was gratifying that NASA made a point of saying how much they enjoyed working with the Manx Telecom team. We often get compliments – but getting one from NASA is certainly a first for us.”

All the pupils who attended were all given a bag containing various items from NASA, Manx National Heritage along with a set of Manx Apollo 11 commemorative stamps donated generously by IOM Post. Manx National Heritage and the Department of Education would also like to thank NASA who let the Isle of Man talk to the stars and a huge special thank you to the star of the event Nicole Stott and her husband Chris. We can’t wait to welcome her back to the Isle of Man soon.

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