Clay County High School students will be in live video conference with astronauts in space


COOKEVILLE-Three Clay County High students will be among five high school contest winners who will ask questions to astronauts, including a Tennessee Tech graduate, in a live NASA education downlink on TTU’s campus scheduled for Nov. 22.


CCHS students Jessica Randi Strong, Alyssa Clements, and Cierra Goolsby will be among 20 total winners in the “Soaring Eagle Question Contest” who pose questions to TTU alumnus Barry Wilmore (pictured here, center–NASA photo) and other astronauts as they work aboard the International Space Station on its November mission. 


The contest was sponsored by the Millard Oakley Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.


Several other CCHS students were among the finalists in the contest and are invited to watch the video conference. The other Clay students at the conference will be: Jessica Carman, Sonny (Sierra) Taylor, Chris Arms, Patrick Bias, Richard Roberts, Kaleb Collins, Elizabeth Copeland, Alyssa Wright, Hayley Torgersen, Chelsey McLerran, Gabby Pierce, Rachel Burnette, Elizabeth Key and Brooklyn Cherry. 


The contest divided students into four age groups. Five winners were chosen from the following groups: kindergarten to fourth grade, fifth grade to eighth grade, ninth to 12th grade and college.

All but one of the students from CCHS were members of Amy Dodson’s business and information technology classes, while one was from Josh Price’s science class. 


“We’re just thrilled that so many of our students will be a part of this video conference with astronauts as they work aboard the space station,” Dodson said. “It’s really a big honor and we’re particularly proud of the three students who will be on the stage to ask their questions. Our students did a fantastic job with their questions.”


The launch will be especially significant for residents of the Upper Cumberland and for TTU, with Wilmore piloting the mission, NASA’s fifth shuttle launch of the year. 


The mission will return space station crewmember Nicole Stott to Earth. Atlantis also will deliver parts to the space station, including a spare gyroscope. The mission features three spacewalks.

Wilmore was jubilant about the mission in an interview with NASA officials held Tuesday during a launch dress rehearsal at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


“I can’t begin to put into words how it feels,” he said. “How exciting it was to fly by yesterday, look down and see Atlantis on the pad…We’re proud to be the folks to sit on the pointy end of it and get to launch on it.”


As with any shuttle launch, delays may affect the date of liftoff. In the event the launch date is moved back, the downlink will be delayed as well. Notification will be made about any changes in the schedule.


On the day of the event, the space station downlink and the student interaction with the astronauts will be broadcast live on WCTE-TV, the local PBS station. Details of the broadcast will be available on or