Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Educational Downlink a stellar success

  • Alex da Silva and Cam Yung
    A pair of students listen to Drew Feustel's answer after asking a question during the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event, alongside Alex da Silva, left, and Cam Yung, right. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Drew Feustel]
    Drew Feustel (PhD’95) rotates as he answers a question from the International Space Station during Friday's Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event.
  • [Ask An Astronaut Cutout]
    Una D'Elia (Art History) poses in the astronaut cutouts with her daughter Zoe during the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event on Friday at Grant Hall
  • [NASA Postdoctoral Fellow and Planetary Scientist Michelle Thompson (Artsci’11, Sc’11)]
    NASA Postdoctoral Fellow and Planetary Scientist Michelle Thompson (Artsci'11, Sc'11) talks about her experiences in trying to qualify as an astronaut.
  • [Cam Yung, the 35th rector of Queen's, and Alex da Silva, the 36th rector]
    Cam Yung, the 35th rector of Queen's, and Alex da Silva, the 36th rector, open the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink festivities at Grant Hall.
  • [Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Art McDonald speaks with a pair of elementary school students]
    Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Art McDonald speaks with a pair of elementary school students who attended Friday's Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event. (Photo by Bernard Clark)
  • [Nandini Deshpande from the School of Rehabilitation Therapy]
    Nandini Deshpande (School of Rehabilitation Therapy) talks about the effects of microgravity on humans as well as her experience as a visiting scholar at NASA.
  • [Indira Feustel and Daniel Woolf]
    Indira Feustel talks with Principal Daniel Woolf as people fill Grant Hall for the Ask An Astronaut: Educational Downlink event held in Grant Hall.

Projected onto the same stage that he graduated on 23 years ago, Andrew (Drew) Feustel (PhD’95) shared his expertise from 408 km above the Earth in the International Space Station (ISS) during Ask an Astronaut: a NASA Education Downlink event in Grant Hall.

A stellar lineup of speakers who took to the stage before the downlink began included NASA Postdoctoral Fellow and Planetary Scientist Michelle Thompson (Artsci’11, Sc’11) as well as Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald, Nathalie Ouellette (MSc’12, PhD’16) of the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre (CPARC), and Nandini Deshpande from the School of Rehabilitation Therapy.

Dr. Thompson shared her experience applying to NASA and the Canadian Space Agency and about her research as a planetary scientist. Dr. McDonald explained how the SNOLAB and ISS have a lot in common as extreme environments for research. Dr. Ouellette shared her research in astrophysics, and how she works collaboratively with other research teams to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Dr. Deshpande walked through the research she conducts on astronauts to understand muscle atrophy and cardiovascular issues that affect astronauts in space.

The 20-minute video feed began just after noon when NASA connected Grant Hall to the ISS. Indira Feustel, Dr. Feustel’s wife, greeted her husband and thanked Queen’s for the warm welcome after travelling from Houston for the event. She also shared a video from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who congratulated Dr. Feustel for his work and for inspiring the next generation of researchers.

Dr. Feustel answered 24 questions from the Queen’s and Kingston community, ranging from local elementary and high school student to Queen’s students, professors, and alumni.

“One of the greatest impacts of my life has been how my perspective has changed on Earth, from up here on the space station. There’s only one home for us now, and it’s fragile,” said Dr. Feustel, answering Dr. Thompson’s question about how his perspective on Earth and humanity’s place in the universe has changed. ”We would be in a different world if folks could see how I see it from the ISS; no borders, one Earth.”

Other participants asked questions about how astronauts sleep in space, what to study to become an astronaut, and if astronauts play tag on the ISS.

The event wrapped up with a sign off from Dr. Feustel, thanking Queen’s for the chance to participate in the first Educational Downlink from NASA hosted by a Canadian university.

Grant Hall was decorated festively for the event, featuring life sized cutouts of Dr. Feustel for photos, big banners to sign to wish Dr. Feustel luck, and tables featuring displays from Graduate Studies and the Queen’s Reduced Gravity group.

In case you missed the event, check out the live video available on the Queen's Facebook feed.