Iowa PBS Secures Live NASA Downlink


Astronaut to talk to Iowa 4th Graders from Space

IPTV has been awarded an exclusive NASA in-flight education downlink from the International Space Station (ISS) for a one-on-one interview with United States astronaut and Iowa native, Dr. Peggy Whitson. Dr. Whitson is currently a Flight Engineer on Expedition 50/51. During this, her third, long-duration flight aboard the station, Whitson will become the first woman to command the station twice when she assumes the role during Expedition 51. IPTV and NASA will share this exciting event on January 19 over their broadcast signals and online live streams. The downlink is currently scheduled between 9 - 11a.m. Central Standard Time. A final time will be confirmed by January 13.

Johnson Space Center’s Office of Education and Public Affairs Office facilitate in-flight downlinks to encourage students to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). These in-flight education downlinks are large-scale public events that allow students and educators to interact with crewmembers through a live question-and-answer session. A downlink allows students to hear and see crewmembers live from space.

IPTV has invited fourth graders from Oskaloosa and Mt. Ayr Community Schools to its Johnston studios to participate in the downlink, where they will also meet and hear remarks from retired NASA Flight Director and Mission Operations Directorate, Tomas Gonzales-Torres. Gonzales-Torres was the lead Flight Director for the ISS Increment 42 mission, where he was in charge of ISS real-time operations and activities from the NASA Mission Control Center. Gonzales-Torres received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2015.

The fourth graders will enjoy hands-on STEM activities provided by the South Central STEM Region manager, FIRST Robotics, Grout Museum, Iowa State University’s PrISUm solar car team and the Cyclone Space Mining Club from ISU. Students will also attend a live, interactive performance by Josh Denhart, The Chemistry Guy. During the 20-minute downlink, students will ask Dr. Whitson questions about space and her current mission.

“Mount Ayr Elementary is excited and honored to participate in this event,” said Chris Elwood, Elementary Principal of Mt. Ayr Community Schools. “Peggy Whitson is a graduate of Mount Ayr Community Schools and well-known throughout the area. We look forward to learning more about her and supporting her on this mission.” Dr. Whitson is also a graduate of Iowa Wesleyan College.

The event will be live streamed at and on NASA’s website. Inspiring Iowa’s Future Astronauts, with highlights from the event, will be broadcast on January 19 at 7 p.m. on IPTV and at 8:30 p.m. on IPTV .2 (LEARNS). The program will be rebroadcast January 20 at 9:30 p.m. on IPTV .2 (LEARNS), and January 21 at 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on IPTV .2 (LEARNS).

“IPTV is thrilled to collaborate with NASA on this exciting educational opportunity that will give 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.”

This program is made possible thanks to underwriting provided by the Iowa Space Grant Consortium.


About Cyclone Space Mining Club
Affiliated with the Iowa State University College of Engineering, the Cyclone Space Mining Club is an organization of students majoring in science, engineering, business, design, communications and marketing. The club participates every year in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition designed to engage and retain students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The club won back-to-back awards in 2012/2013 and the overall grand prize, 2013 Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, as well as the 2014 Caterpillar Autonomy Award as the first robot in the history of the competition to successfully complete a ten minute mining mission under full autonomous control.

About FIRST Robotics
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. Based in Manchester, NH, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. FIRST participation is proven to encourage students to pursue education and careers in STEM-related fields, inspire them to become leaders and innovators, and enhance their 21st century work-life skills.

About Grout Museum
The mission of the Grout Museum District is to provide a better understanding of our world by collecting, preserving and interpreting history and illustrating scientific principles. The Grout Museum collects, preserves and interprets cultural and natural history of the region: the Rensselaer Russell House Museum and the Snowden House preserve and interpret elements of the Victorian age; the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium provides exhibitions and programming that inspire the study of the sciences; and the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum honors the service and sacrifice of Iowa veterans from the Civil War to present.

About IPTV
IPTV is Iowa's only statewide television network. IPTV’s mission to educate, inform, enrich and inspire Iowans guides its quality, noncommercial programming that tells Iowa's stories like no one else can. Three statewide, public channels offer programs of lasting value to Iowans, regardless of where they live or what they can afford: IPTV (.1), IPTV LEARNS (.2) and IPTV WORLD (.3) on Channel 11, Des Moines; Channel 12, Iowa City; Channel 21, Fort Dodge; Channel 24, Mason City; Channel 27, Sioux City; Channel 32, Waterloo; Channel 32, Council Bluffs; Channel 36, Davenport; Channel 36, Red Oak. More information can be found at

About Josh Denhart
Josh Denhart speaks nationally at various conferences, seminars and breakouts. In addition to being a full time children’s pastor, Josh is involved in coaching, consulting and training of KidMin Leaders nationally, as a key note speaker, trainer, coach and more. Josh holds multiple degrees in education, is National Board Certified in Teacher Excellence and has been in full time vocational ministry for a decade.

About NASA
President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1958, partially in response to the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite the previous year. NASA grew out of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which had been researching flight technology for more than 40 years. NASA’s vision is to reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.

About PrISUm
PrISUm is a student-led organization founded in 1989 on a heritage of advanced technology, innovative design and a passion for beating the competition. Over the past quarter of a century, PrISUm has developed 12 award winning solar vehicles. It is our mission to build a practical solar car that changes the paradigm of transportation. In doing so, we strive to inspire future generations to pursue their passions through education.

About South Central Iowa STEM Region
The South Central Iowa STEM Region of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council was created with the goal of increasing STEM interest and achievement. The STEM Council is a collaboration of bipartisan Iowa legislators, educators, business, nonprofits, students and families focused on improving STEM opportunities and awareness in Iowa. South Central Iowa STEM Region is dedicated to building a strong STEM education foundation for all Iowans. The South Central Region is a collaborative effort with Drake University, and is able to use the strengths from the institution to help expand STEM into the communities served in South Central Iowa.