UNM, New Mexico students preparing for live chat with International Space Station


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico students are getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn directly from those working on the International Space Station. The University of New Mexico is hosting a live chat with astronauts on the space station next week.

Students from all over the state will be able to hear directly from the astronauts and even ask them questions about life in space. UNM says it’s a special opportunity that may never come again.

“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said David Hanson, a biology professor at UNM and co-chair of the ISS live chat. “We’re going to have students from around the city, around the state, being able to ask questions to the astronauts.”

Students from at least 20 schools across New Mexico are coming to UNM to learn first-hand, what it’s like to work in space. They will hear directly from the crews currently on the space station.

“We’re going to talk about the research that’s being done on the space station and how it relates to some of the research at UNM,” said Hanson. “We’ll have a whole range of activities going on.”

Hanson says the Albuquerque Air jump rope team will do a performance. There will also be booths from places like Explora and the Nuclear Museum, and different UNM professors will be on hand, talking about the research going on at the school. Hanson says a lot of work is going in to make this event happen.

“Had to put together a strong application on how we would work with the community and really do something that’s good for the community and New Mexico,” said Hanson. “Show us all the cool stuff that’s going on at UNM.”

Hanson is a biology professor at the university and has always loved working with plants. He says he’s excited to learn more about the impact of plants and new growth in space.

“I really want to know how much plants mean to them up there,” said Hanson. “I work with plants, I have experiments with plants on the space station.”

In the spring, chile from Espanola will head to space for testing. Hanson hopes they can learn from experiments like the chiles, as well as his project.

“We grew some plants on the space station that didn’t have as much of the strengthening compounds in them so on earth, they wouldn’t grow up straight, as much. We thought in the space station, without any gravity, it’s easier to grow upright, and they would be happy,” said Hanson. “In the end, they kind of flopped over, which was really strange. We didn’t expect that at all and we think maybe that’s because they’re not putting their strengthening compounds evenly around their stems or something because they’re not getting gravity to help signal how to do that.”

With recent opportunities like the ISS live chat and the school’s chance to study moon samples from the Apollo missions, UNM credits its strong programs with its growing connection to NASA.

“It’s really been growing but we’ve also been doing a lot for a long time,” said Hanson. “Having our connection with the national labs really helps but we’ve got a long history of strong programs here.”

They hope the chances will only continue to come their way.

“We may never get another one in the state again, so it’s a really great opportunity,” said Hanson.

The event is open and free to students throughout New Mexico. Festivities kick off Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 10:30 a.m. at UNM’s Student Union Building and will last about two hours.

UNM is live streaming the whole event at live.unm.edu starting at 10:30 a.m. MST. NASA will also upload the ISS live chat to NASA TV for those who miss the chat.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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