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Distance Learning Taken To Dizzying Heights

School’s students get to hear from a hometown star

International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield speaks from space to a school in Milton, Ontario.Distance learning is growing in popularity among educators. But the distance learning that students of Chris Hadfield Public School in Milton, Ont., received was literally out of this world — 250 miles out, from aboard the International Space Station.

Chris Hadfield, the commander of the ISS and a former resident of Milton, conducted the lesson on life aboard the space station to the students of the school that now bears his name.

On Dec. 19, 2012, Hadfield launched aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS; in March he was promoted to station commander, the first Canadian to hold that post. The Canadian Space Agency organized a series of video conferences with Hadfield, who has addressed various schools and groups. In January, Hadfield spoke to the 800 students of CHPS.

Speaking to students from low Earth orbit is quite an experience, but it was not Hadfield’s first close encounter with the school. He has been involved since the current graduating class of 8th graders started there in 2003, said CHPS Principal Sean Marks.


“He has been here to talk to them; and in September, as part of his training, we saw a live feed of him as he walked on the ocean floor off the coast of Florida,” Marks said. “But that was only five minutes, the live feed from space lasted 20 minutes.”

NASA was specific about that, and it had to be timed almost to the second in order to line up with NASA’s schedule as well as the space station’s orbit, according to Marks.

To ensure the feed from space went off well, the Canadian Space Agency turned to audiovisual equipment provider Eclipse Solutions AV, which used Analog Way’s Tetra-VIO as the main video process for the event, according to Analog Way, a designer and manufacturer of presentation switchers and image converters.

The video was broadcast from the ISS using a NASA TV channel and a satellite feed. The component HD 1080i signal from the satellite box was fed into the Tetra-VIO with the audio mix, according to Yannick Provencher, Eclipse Solutions AV’s technical director.

Because the Canadian Space Agency needs to work with NASA to get the audio and video feed, the “technical requirements are considerable in downlinking events from space,” Provencher said.


Speaking with an astronaut live from space is a chance of a lifetime for students, so there was “no tolerance for mistakes when it is time to go live,” Provencher said. However, Marks said he was not worried about the technical aspect of the event. “I was involved in the preparation making sure that what we had matched up with what they (the technicians) needed,” he said.

The preparations were meticulous, according to Provencher. “All details and chosen AV equipment were important,” he said. “With the VGA input of the Tetra-VIO, there was no problem to share the images to the screen and media. Signal quality was very good, even with cable distances.”

In this case the distance was low Earth orbit, and the feed was a blast for the students of CHPS.


Analog Way:

Eclipse Solutions AV: