Shaker Heights students talk live with astronauts on International Space Station

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SHAKER HEIGHTS, OH - Most students learn about space exploration by reading books and watching videos, but on Wednesday morning, students in Shaker Heights had the unique opportunity to speak live with astronauts on board the International Space Station.

Orbiting the Earth at four miles a second, Astronauts Joseph Acaba and Mark Vande Hei answered a wide variety of questions in the live link between the Space Station and Shaker Heights High School.

When asked by one student why it’s important to explore space, Vande Hei said, "I think it's important for us to go to space because it is a challenging endeavor that focuses our attention and the attention of science into learning new things. By focusing on doing challenging things, we end up with lots of what we call spin-off technologies, things that we get unexpectedly that help our lives on the ground in a great way."

During the Q&A, the astronauts revealed some of the research that is being done on board the Space Station. "There is a lot of hope that some lung tissues that have been grown on the Space Station may help contribute to finding a cure for cancer," said Vande Hei.

Shaker Heights is one of a select few school districts from across the country chosen by NASA for the live link with the Space Station. School Board President Alex Liston Dykema told Fox 8 News, "To have this chance and be the only school in Ohio to get this opportunity this year, to bring science into our kids, let our kids ask questions of astronauts, I mean it makes science real and it’s just phenomenal.”

Organizers are hoping the program will inspire students to pursue the study of science and space, and perhaps serve as a motivation for some of them to become astronauts themselves.

Teachers say witnessing how astronauts apply what they learned as students is more powerful than any lesson in a text book. "We've been studying about space and it gives us an opportunity just to learn so many facets of it and it gives them the realization that they could reach for the stars and become an astronaut if they'd like,” said first grade teacher Mary Beth Eakin.

The astronauts delighted the students by closing the program with mid-air somersaults in their weightless environment.