The University of New Mexico and The Children’s Hour will host a live chat with astronauts from the International Space Station in December. This is a rare and out of this world opportunity for students to engage with NASA astronauts, space experts and other space enthusiasts in an interactive atmosphere.

The NASA In-Flight Education Downlink, planned for Tuesday, Dec. 10 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at UNM’s Student Union Building (SUB), is open and free to students throughout New Mexico.  UNM and The Children’s Hour are extending an invitation to all of New Mexico’s space enthusiasts for the live chat.

The event will be full of exciting experts from NASA and experts doing NASA work in New Mexico, as well as fun activities and information booths to get students set on a path to be stars.

Students will ask pre-submitted questions directly to astronauts about life aboard the space station, NASA’s deep space exploration plans and what it’s like to conduct science in space. Students can prepare for the event by participating in existing NASA education/citizen science activities, reading up on the space station, astronaut biographies and about current research activities happening aboard the station. Open submission of questions for the astronauts will be accepted through Nov. 17. Questions can be submitted to The Children’s Hour.

“This event is a great opportunity for teachers to engage students similar to an interactive mission control environment. This event is designed for students in grades 4-9 grades as well as high school students, and undergraduate students at UNM who have not discovered their passion for a career.”  – UNM Professor Dave Hanson

International Space Station In-flight Education Downlinks support NASA's efforts to encourage K-12 students to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Downlinks are facilitated by the Johnson Space Center Office of STEM Engagement as part of STEM on Station, and use the unique experience of human spaceflight to promote and enhance STEM education. Astronauts living on the orbiting laboratory are able to participate in these educational calls, and communicate 24 hours a day with the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, through the agency Space Network’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.

The goal is to inspire students with fields related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); to help teachers stimulate the interests of their classes in these subjects; and ultimately, through their students' pursuit of dreams, to advance American achievements in discovery, invention and exploration. Specific learning objectives for the event include creating interest among interested students in STEM by connecting with ordinary experience to extraordinary opportunities; demystify science by conducting real-world science; and develop community connections so youth have near-peer mentors at every stage of their education.

The event schedule also includes: an interactive jumping activity with a performance by the Albuquerque Air Jump Rope Team;  Q&A/presentations by NASA contractor Jacob Torres, a New Mexico native working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on efforts to grow New Mexico green chile in space; NASA staff member Kurt Luecht on in-situ resource utilization for exploration of the moon and Mars, current NASA interns working on plant growth (livestream from Kennedy); a presentation by UNM’s Horton Newsom about his work at UNM with Mars rovers and much more.

There will be nearly a dozen activity booths set up outside the event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

  1. Explora
  2. National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
  3. UNM Swarmathon robots
  4. UNM Institute of Meteoritics
  5. UNM Mars greenhouse competitors  
  6. UNM Plants in space
  7. UNM engineering: solar cells, nano manufacturing, chemical engineering
  8. Sandia National Labs
  9. SIPI
  10. Albuquerque Air Jump Rope
  11. Boy Scouts
  12. UNM and NASA undergraduate information table

The event will be broadcast live and there will also be seating in the SUB Atrium where all events will be broadcast.

Additionally, audiences throughout New Mexico will be able to participate through the listening audience of The Children’s Hour broadcasting, Saturday at 9 a.m. on KUNM.

Learning activities will also be advertised for winter and spring. Participants can complete them in classrooms, participating museums and even at home. These events include competitions, NASA citizen science activities and ongoing space and STEM-related museum activities.

For more information and to register for the event, visit NASA In-Flight Education Downlink.