High School in Lafayette, Co. Cheers on Former Student's Journey to International Space Station

The high school held an assembly to watch a live NASA feed of their own alumni traveling to the ISS.

by Amy Bounds, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo. / April 21, 2017 0

(TNS) -- Centaurus High students and community members cheered as the hatches opened at 9:25 a.m. Thursday and Jack Fischer pushed himself into the International Space Station, orbiting about 250 miles above the Earth.

The school hosted an assembly so students and Fischer's family and friends could watch his arrival via a live feed from NASA TV.

Narrating at Centaurus was Kjell Lindgren, a veteran of one ISS mission, a friend of Fischer's and member of the same astronaut class.

"It's a dream come true, a lifetime dream fulfilled for him," Lindgren said.

Fischer, 43, is a Louisville native and 1992 graduate of Lafayette's Centaurus. For his six-month stint on the ISS — his first voyage in space — he's serving as the flight engineer.

His travel partner, cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin, of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, made his fourth voyage.

The two launched about 1:15 a.m. Thursday aboard a Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, traveling on a fast-track, six-hour course to the space station. The launch and docking at the space-facing Poisk module went off smoothly.

Fischer and Yurchikhin joined Commander Peggy Whitson, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, all already on board the ISS.

"It's just really cool to see it happening on screen," said Centaurus junior Luc Surwillo, who's in the school's aerospace engineering class. "Space is cool."

Students and teachers said watching a former Centaurus student realize his dream of launching into space is inspirational.

Lucy Davis, a junior in the Centaurus engineering program, said going to space had seemed like a "little kid's dream."

"Then you experience this, and it seems possible," she said.

Adding to the excitement of the launch, Fischer is getting to the ISS just two days before a delivery by the automated, unmanned Orbital ATK Cygnus of more than 7,600 pounds of crew supplies and science gear — including an experiment designed by Centaurus students under direction of engineering teacher Brian Thomas.

Fischer has said he will run the Centaurus experiment while in space if possible. The experiment is designed to study the effects of simulated gravity on bacterial lag phase in a micro-gravitational environment.

The first version was destroyed after the SpaceX CRS-7 unmanned supply mission failed with the rocket's explosion about 2 ½ minutes after its June 28, 2015, launch.

So students rebuilt it, watching with relief during class earlier this week as it was successfully launched.

"It was really stressful to watch because last time it blew up," said senior Mary Hanson.

Despite the initial setback, she said she's still "super excited" about space and space travel.

"It's somewhere beyond where we've had the capability of going," she said.

Also at Centaurus, physics and chemistry teacher Emily Haynes and a team of about 25 students are developing the MaRTIAn program — Mars Rover Team Imaging and Analysis — in cooperation with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The plan is to design an experiment to answer a question about the geologic history of Mars through the imaging cameras and for students to work, via teleconferencing, with the JPL science team.

"We get to learn about all the amazing things that go on with the rover that other people don't see," sophomore Katharine MacDonald.

As the Centaurus crowd waited for the hatch to open, Lindgren went over the details of space flight and shared tidbits about what it's like in space, including strapping yourself to a treadmill for exercise to keep your heart healthy.

He also shared how space gives astronauts "bird legs" as blood gets concentrated in the head and chest without gravity to pull it down.

Learning how to keep astronauts healthy is one of the main missions of the research on the ISS as NASA works toward sending astronauts to Mars, he said. Another goal is finding the best system to recycle water, turning urine into safe drinking water.

"It takes a little time to get used to the idea of drinking your own urine," he said. "It takes a lot longer to get used to the idea of drinking other people's urine."

With the presentation wrapping up, Lindgren urged the audience to continue checking in on the mission.

"I know that you are going to have a blast following along," he said. "It's going to be an amazing experience."

©2017 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.