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Expanding Their Horizons

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If one were to design a town square for the "global village,'' the small town of Machias, Me., probably would not head the list of possible locations.

But ever since Karl K. Kurz, a teacher at Machias Memorial High School, began exchanging radio and computer messages with Sergei Krikalev, a Russian cosmonaut who is temporarily stranded aboard the space station Mir, news outlets from People magazine to Australian television have focused their attention on the seacoast town.

"I'm amazed at how this has taken off,'' says William Prescott Jr., the school's principal.

Mr. Kurz first contacted the former Soviet satellite in late November as part of his ongoing efforts to use amateur radio to bring his traditional industrial-arts course into the space age.

Early into his experiment, Mr. Kurz began periodically hearing bursts of the Russian language on the radio.

"At first, I honestly thought it just a [Soviet fishing] trawler,'' he said.

But since establishing his first contact with Mir on Nov. 27, Mr. Kurz and a dedicated cadre of about 20 of his 75 students have sent several messages to the space station.

The conversations with Mr. Krikalev, who speaks some English, are hardly exhaustive; most of the 90-second window of opportunity is eaten up in verifying the technical details of the broadcast. But the exchange has provided students with an unexpected window on the world.

"They've been asking 'Can we write to him?' '' when he returns, Mr. Kurz says. "It's been more than a lesson in technology.''--P.W.

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