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Daily Pilot

Kline students to quiz astronauts in space

Costa Mesa kids will get about 10 minutes to chat with an astronaut aboard space station, barring technical difficulties.

By Jeremiah Dobruck

3:42 PM PST, December 4, 2012

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On Thursday, sixth-grader Brandon True will ask an astronaut orbiting Earth how he moves the International Space Station to dodge space junk.

Eighth-grader Sergei Silcock will ask whether he’s made any accidental discoveries about space.

And second-grader Aviv Golan will ask how astronauts communicate with each other when they speak different languages.

Some time after 11 a.m. Thursday, students from Kline School in Costa Mesa will telephone their contact in Italy, who will relay their signal through ham radio to the ISS.

If all goes according to plan and there are no technical glitches, students will have about 10 minutes to talk to Cmdr. Kevin Ford.

After competing to get on a list of 20 questions, students have been rehearsing what they will ask.

“This is just a dream come true for me,” Brandon said.

More than a year ago, Kline School applied to be part of NASA’s Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program.

The initiative connects hundreds of schools with an astronaut on the ISS who is a licensed ham radio operator.

Kline students have been preparing for months, with lessons about the ISS and a module on the lunar landing, said technology coordinator and science teacher Sean Butler.

This is Kline’s first year in the ARISS program, but the school’s close relationship with space started years ago.

Kline participated in the Space Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment that let students talk to a shuttle in orbit.

Amateur radio operator Doug Borcoman had contacted the shuttle through the ham radio program a few times in the early ’90s. In 1994, his son was attending Kline, and with that motivation, Borcoman helped set up contact for the school.

After a failed pass when the shuttle had its antenna pointing the wrong way, Kline made crystal-clear contact about a week later, Borcoman said.

After 1999, the shuttle radio program was canceled and Borcoman stopped setting up sessions.

But about a year and a half ago while going through old videos of Kline’s session with the shuttle, seeing students’ and his son’s excitement piqued his interest again. So Borcoman approached Kline with the idea of contacting the ISS.

“This is the first time I’ve done the space station,” he said, with excitement in his voice.

Susan Kline, the founder and director of the private school, said Borcoman and Butler’s excitement about space and science is contagious for her students. 

“It makes learning exciting and alive,” she said.

It also doesn’t hurt that students will get to speak first-hand to someone orbiting Earth.

“It’s not a hard sale,” Kline said.

Thursday’s event is open to the public, and doors will open at 11 a.m.

Kline School is at 1620 Adams Ave. in Costa Mesa.

jeremiah.dobruck2@latimes.com

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck