KARACHI: When Pakistani teacher Aimun Faisal posted her students’ questions to NASA on Twitter on Wednesday, never did she imagine scientists and astronauts would respond -- and her post would go viral.
It all began with a class activity where the fourth grade teacher at Karachi’s Cornerstones School asked her students to write down questions about the solar system. Once students had submitted their questions, the class voted to select the best queries.
On Wednesday, Faisal posted six selected questions and the names and photos of the students who had asked them on Twitter.
“These fourth graders have some questions for you,” said the post, in which NASA astronauts and other scientists were tagged. The tweet went viral.
To Faisal’s surprise and joy, astronauts and scientists replied.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield said to a student called Rayyan who had asked if he ever felt “scared” his space ship would get lost in space:
“Rayyan - I wasn't scared we'd get lost. We had the Earth nearby, and used the stars to steer. I felt especially comforted when I flew over home. Here's a photo I took of Karachi - can you find your school?”
To Haniyah, who asked if it was true that it rained diamonds on Jupiter, Emily Calandrelli, an American science communicator and the host of Xploration Outer Space and Emily’s Wonder Lab, wrote:
“Haniyah -It's definitely possible!! The same physics and chemistry that creates diamonds here on Earth (putting Carbon under super high heat/pressure) exists on planets like Jupiter, so some scientists hypothesize that it's raining diamonds there! Wouldn't it be fun to see that?!”
There were several other replies, which Faisal collected, printed out and put into envelopes that she took to class the next day, Thursday. There was a “stunned silence,” she said, when she told the students scientists had replied to their queries.
Faisal once again took to Twitter to describe her students' responses:
“As I started calling out names for the kids to collect their envelopes, there was a quiet whisper, "we all got separate letters?" And after a lull in momentum when one student Anabiya received her letter she cynically remarked "This is not from NASA, this is ma'am's handwriting. So, I asked little miss Sherlock to open her letter.”
“Haniya kept staring at her letter with her mouth agape even as I tried to give her a background on who these people were that had written back to her,” Faisal wrote.
“Shy Muhammad who wanted all the answers but was too hesitant to ask any questions, went around showing his letter which told him he is a star and we will make sure he shines the brightest one day. (We're working on that. Send prayers. I saw him laugh for the first time today.)"
Speaking about what had inspired her teaching style, Faisal said her mother had worked “very hard” in her early years, using puzzles, crosswords and books to keep her interested in her studies.
Then, she said, she met three teachers at “three important moments in life” - Miss Tampal, a principal at Karachi's Mama Parsi school, Zeenat Farookee, her economics teacher in high school, and Ali Raza, a history instructor at university.
“Thankyou everyone who made this go viral! The kids don't know how this happened but I am sure they would be very grateful to all of you if they did,” Faisal wrote on Twitter on Thursday evening. “This is a wrap on the live coverage of the NASA Saga. May Grade 4 continue to have questions, always!”
The students, who had low expectations about getting responses to their queries, Faisal said, were “currently planning a ‘field trip’ to NASA.”