Tim Peake and City of Norwich School chat through Amateur Radio system

British astronaut Tim Peake talked to ten students from the City of Norwich School in England from the International Space Station thanks to an Amateur Radio link up. He talked about what life is like in space, what happens when you bleed in a microgravity environment, his favourite view of Earth from space, and the experiments he is currently involved in.

Major Peake and the Norwich students were linked up by the UK Border Agency and the Amateur Radio station on the ISS’ team.

Tim Hare, a fifteen-year-old amateur radio enthusiast, established a connection with Major Peake’s craft 250 miles from the Earth’s surface using a special call sign.

Tim Peake and City of Norwich SchoolAn amazing experience for the students at the City of Norwich School – to be able to talk live to a British astronaut while he is orbiting Earth in space! (Image: facebook.com)

Students had ten minutes to ask questions

Within a few seconds of linking everybody up, the British astronaut appeared on the screen, with his voice coming through the speakers.

The ten students made the best of the short period allotted to them to ask questions, and there were some interesting ones.

When asked which were his favourite regions on Earth to look down at from space, Major Peake, from Chichester in West Sussex, said they were Africa and north Canada.

He also commented on his sleep quality and patterns, and said that since his arrival on ISS he had not been dreaming much.

Before concluding the conversation, Major Peake said:

“It has been wonderful speaking to everyone in Norwich this afternoon. Thank you for these wonderful questions.”

Investigating Airway InflammationTim Peake blowing into the nitric-oxide tester to determine whether there is any airway inflammation. He was in the airlock with fellow crew member Tim Kopra at low pressure (517 mmHg). (Image: twitter.com/asro_timpeake)

Airway Monitoring experiment

On Friday, Major Peake and fellow crew member NASA’s Colonel Tim Kopra both took part in an experiment which will help scientists determine what happens to space travellers’ lungs when they are on the Moon or other low-pressure environments.

The two men were placed in a sealed off airlock in the space station’s Quest Module, and a low-pressure environment – 517 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) – was simulated. The standard atmosphere pressure on Earth at sea level is 760 mmHg.

While in the airlock, researchers were particularly interested in the crew members’ airway inflammation.

In Tim Peake’s Principia Blog, he wrote:

“This time we are not going on a spacewalk but instead we will be pumping some of the air out of the Quest module in the name of science.”

“By reducing the pressure in the airlock we can simulate being at high altitude – or in a future lunar habitat that will likely be kept at lower pressures than on Earth – because it is cheaper and easier to build structures to withstand lower pressures.”

Excited students and staffStaff members as well as students became excited when Major Peake appeared on the screen at the Norwich City School. The school wrote on its website regarding this image: “The moment Ms.Nichols realised we could see and hear Tim Peake!” (Image: cns-school.org)

We are designed to live in gravity environment

For human beings, living in space is not easy, Major Peake explained. Over millions of years, humans have evolved to live with gravity – take it away and we do adapt and appear to cope amazingly well.

Even so, astronauts need to monitor virtually every aspect of their health up there. “Luckily I have a flight surgeon at the European Astronaut Centre and a team of biomedical engineers who watch out for me daily, but space medicine is still a very new discipline,” Major Peake explained.

Astronauts’ lungs can easily become irritated or inflamed because of dust particle inhalation – fortunately, so far Major Peake says he has not had any problems. On Earth dust settles on the ground because of gravity, but in the ISS’ weightless environment it floats about. That is why the crew cleans ISS thoroughly every Saturday.

Airway monitoring equipment trainingMajor Peake Training with Airway Monitoring equipment at NASA’s Jonson Space Center in Houston, Texas. (Image: blogs.esa.int)

Regarding dust in other planets, Major Peake wrote:

“On the Moon and Mars it will be worse because, although there is gravity, it is weaker than on Earth and there is a lot more very fine dust, which also sticks to astronauts due to static electricity.”

Nitric-oxide test

On Earth, medical professionals would use a CT scan or X-ray to test whether somebody’s lungs are inflamed. This is not possible in space because there aren’t any scanning devices.

Scientists involved in the Airway Monitoring experiments devised a simple nitric-oxide test which the two astronauts had to use to see whether it worked.

Regarding the experiment, Major Peake wrote:

“The Airway Monitoring experiment is the kind of research we astronauts love. Not only do we get to use the airlock for scientific purposes – but we are also contributing to creating knowledge that will help our future colleagues explore new environments in our Solar System.”

“Moreover, this study will increase our general understanding of problems with airway inflammation and could provide valuable research into new methods for treating conditions such as asthma. As a bonus, Airway Monitoring does not require that we draw blood samples so the needles can stay in their pouches!”

For the vast majority of people, being able to breathe in and out all day is taken for granted. People with breathing difficulties, such as patients with asthma, are not so lucky. For millions of individuals with respiratory problems, this nitric-oxide test could offer a cheap and rapid way to diagnose lung problems everywhere – if it works in space, most likely it will work back on Earth.

Video – City of Norwich students talk to Tim Peake