Iowa Public Television Connects Fourth Graders to Astronaut in Space

July 10, 2017

Peggy Whitson, IPTV

(NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson demonstrates how M&M’s get lost in space during a NASA downlink with Iowa Public Television.)

Astronaut Peggy Whitson shared her record-setting space mission from the International Space Station directly with nearly 300 fourth-graders in her native Iowa via NASA downlink with Iowa Public Television (IPTV).

Whitson, who broke the record for the most time an American has spent in space, took time from her zero gravity and fluid dynamics experiments to be interviewed by students from Mount Ayr and Oskaloosa Elementary Schools. She demonstrated how fluid drops float in space and answered questions ranging from what it’s like living in space to the hardest part of her training. She said learning other languages, especially Russian, needed to communicate at the International Space Station, has been “probably the most difficult thing to learn, even harder than orbital mechanics.” 

NASA and IPTV facilitated the live in-flight downlink, part of the “Inspiring Iowa’s Future Astronauts” daylong event to encourage students to study and pursue STEM careers. IPTV’s Education Department worked with the students to prepare for the downlink, teaching them about the International Space Station and Whitson’s mission and engaging them by developing a special motto and mission patch.

“IPTV Kids Clubhouse” host Dan Wardell hosted the program that streamed live at and aired on IPTV.


“Collaborating with NASA on this exciting educational opportunity is giving all Iowans a glimpse into the life of Dr. Whitson and the ISS,” said Molly Phillips, IPTV Executive Director and General Manager. “IPTV strives to provide programming, media and services that educate, inform, enrich and inspire Iowans and, we hope, some future Iowa astronauts.”

Whitson, a graduate of Mount Ayr Community High School and Iowa Wesleyan College, was the first woman to command the space station and at 57, is the oldest woman to travel in space. She started her third trip in space November 17, 2016, and took over command of the International Space Station in April. When she returns to Earth in September, she will have logged 666 days in space, 132 days longer than the previous American record holder, Jeff Williams.