BioTECH@Richmond Heights students ask astronauts questions during live Earth to space call

CORAL GABLES, FLA. (WSVN) - Students at a Coral Gables high school got the chance to speak to astronauts on board the International Space Station.

About 250 students from BioTECH@Richmond Heights High School, a Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s affiliated magnet school, gathered Wednesday to ask astronauts and former science teachers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel a host of questions.

Students at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden hosted event asked everything from how they receive help from the ground to the food that the astronauts miss the most down on Earth.

The kids are a part of the Growing Beyond Earth Project, where students help to do research for NASA by selecting different edible plant varieties that would be best grown in space.

“Of course it’s thrilling to talk to the astronauts, but these students are part of the next step,” said Carl Lewis, the director at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. “They are part of finding answers to questions that we don’t know the answer to, that NASA doesn’t know the answer to.”

Kiara McCalister, one of the students at the event, said the experience was unlike any other.

“It’s just really weird, because you never think that you’d ever speak to an astronaut, and it’s just really cool how they’re up there and we’re down here, and we have communications to them,” McCalister said.

She told 7News that she wondered how they could help the astronauts, but found out it’s a team effort.

“Our experiments are actually designed by scientists on the ground and they help execute them,” said an astronaut. “We are up here doing the work for them.”

Student Kaylee Perez, who was able to ask a question, said that being a part of the program is humbling.

“It was so nerve-wracking. It was so amazing to think that I could talk to someone in outer space,” Perez said.

It was an unforgettable experience for many who attended.

“I learned that astronauts are people just like us,” said student Tyler Graey. “I mean, one of them was failing high school. There’s hope for all of us out there.”

When asked about what food the astronauts miss most, one of them responded pizza. He said they tried to replicate it in space, but they can’t get the cheese to melt just right, so it’s not the same.

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