NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Patients at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt were part of a very special long-distance call on Wednesday.
Four patients participated in a radio call with astronaut Dr. Kiell N. Lindgren. He is orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station.
The students were Jayden Bailey, 13, Aaliyah Broome, 13, Daisy Deal, 12 and Walter Mayo, 7.
"It's just been a long time coming and we're so glad it's finally here," said Tisha Coggin, a school teacher at the hospital.
The children's hospital school program originally scheduled the call for March 2020. The pandemic forced them to push back the experience. The school program was the only non-traditional school that Amateur Radio on the International Space Station picked to participate in the round of calls with astronauts.
To pull off the cosmic conversation, a special antenna was mounted on top of the hospital by local amateur radio clubs, including the Williamson County Amateur Radio Club. The antenna had to be hand-pointed in the direction of the ISS at a set time.
"12:42 p.m. and that's because it will be aligned with our antenna, and that's when we'll have the best opportunity. It's only a 10-minute window that we get to talk to them," Coggin said before the call.
Before the call, the hospital had games and activities set up for the whole hospital. A team from NASA in Huntsville even brought a real moon rock.
The mother of one of the patients who spoke to the astronaut said they never expected this experience during his three-week hospital stay.
"Walter's passion is space he loves everything about space. That's all he wants to talk about and create about, so this is amazing that in the middle of a hospital day we can come down to the lobby and have an experience like this. It's once in a lifetime," said Maria Mayo, mother of Walter.
The patients asked the astronaut questions about life in space, including how they communicate with loved ones, if they get care packages, what happens when they get sick and what it feels like to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.