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A new @NASA video provides a different perspective from the typical Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Program school contact.

The @NASA Twitter feed shown above states:

“Students Use Ham Radio to Call an Astronaut in Space. Canadian students participating from home used ham radio to talk with astronaut Chris Cassidy (@Astro_Seal) aboard the station on May 15, 2020.”

The tweet spread quickly in cyberspace and was featured in an article in the Friday, August 28, 2020 issue of the United Kingdom’s online newspaper, The Daily Mail as shown in the photo below.

UK Daily Mail ISS VideoThe headline reads:

“NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy aboard the ISS receives a call from Canadian students using a ham radio who ask him about life in space, foods he misses and what happens when someone vomits on the ship…”

The May 15 contact was no ordinary ISS contact and it was featured on the front cover of the July-August 2020 issue of The Canadian Amateur magazine and prominently displayed on the RAC website. 

In addition, the magazine also included the article “Successful ARISS contact with the Airdrie Space Science Club in Alberta using new Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio”.

Youth members of the Airdrie Space Science Club (ASSC) in Airdrie, Alberta were able to engage in a Q&A session with US astronaut Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR, onboard the International Space Station (ISS). This was the second test of the new-style radio contact called Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio. The concept was developed for distance learning when schools closed worldwide due to COVID-19. The virus eliminated all opportunities for ARISS radio contacts at education organizations.

The previous news post included a video of the ISS contact with the Airdrie Space Science Club which is provided below. Unlike previous videos which shows excited students, teachers, parents and media all gathered together in a school gymnasium, this video shows students and parents making contacts from the safety of their homes during a global pandemic.

Cover of July-August 2020 TCAThe Airdrie Space Science Club was formed by a group of space enthusiasts interested in advancing students’ interest in model rocketry and who wanted to offer ways to help them enjoy the wonders of space science. One of those leaders was teacher Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ, who is the Western Canada ARISS Mentor and the Chair of the RAC Youth Education Program. Brian described the new ARISS concept in this way:

“During this pandemic, our opportunities to develop kids’ interest in space has been interrupted. This ARISS contact gets them looking back up, towards the sky, and imagining themselves as an astronaut one day.”

The new NASA video that was just released provides a completely different perspective: that of the astronauts onboard the International Space Station (click on the link below).

RAC President Glenn MacDonell, VE3XRA, describes it in this way:

“The recently released video is based on both the questions and answers from the ARISS contact and also video from inside the International Space Station (ISS).

It highlights Amateur Radio as the means of students speaking with astronauts, picks out some of the most interesting questions and answers and shows what is happening inside the ISS.

The new video is shorter and more gripping than the original and it includes the most important and interesting segments of the contact.

ARISS has chosen it to highlight how contacts are done today during the global pandemic. I think the high quality of the questions was one of the reasons for choosing this session. It has been liked and retweeted thousands of times in the first days since its release.

I would like to publicize it because is something we and the Airdrie group should be proud of. It is what you’d want to show someone who wondered what these contacts are about.”

Additional information

May 15 News Release:

Update on today’s ARISS Contact: 
Friday, May 15, 2020

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program conducted its second test of its new distance-learning ARISS radio contacts with astronauts this morning.

Youth members of the Airdrie Space Science Club (ASSC) in Airdrie, Alberta were able to engage in a Q&A session with US astronaut Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR, onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

A new ARISS telebridge radio ground station was used successfully and was operated by John Sygo, ZS6JON, near Johannesburg, South Africa.

This was the second test of the new-style radio contact called Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio. The concept was developed for distance learning when schools closed worldwide due to COVID-19. The virus eliminated all opportunities for ARISS radio contacts at education organizations.

You can view a video of the successful contact on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/2mflSlShPHA

The event featured an overview of the ARISS program complete with two videos describing the efforts here on Earth and in space required to make the contacts. Thankfully, this was then followed by a very successful contact with the ISS and Q&A as described below.

The Airdrie Space Science Club

The Airdrie Space Science Club was formed by a group of space enthusiasts interested in advancing students’ interest in model rocketry and who wanted to offer ways to help them enjoy the wonders of space science. One of those leaders was teacher Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ, who is the Western Canada ARISS Mentor and the Chair of the RAC Youth Education Program.

Brian described the new ARISS concept in this way:

“During this pandemic, our opportunities to develop kids’ interest in space has been interrupted. This ARISS contact gets them looking back up, towards the sky, and imagining themselves as an astronaut one day.”

For the past 10 years, the ASSC has provided youth aged 10-14 the opportunity to build and launch model rockets, look at the universe during astronomy evenings, and participate in special events such as ARISS contacts and high altitude balloon launches.

The group meets one Saturday every month and enjoys a short lesson in space history or construction techniques, followed by opportunities to build various model rockets. A second Saturday is spent launching those models.

Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio

As mentioned above, members will ask their questions to ISS Commander Cassidy via an adapted telebridge link which will use a multi-point system in which they are connected to the conference call centre from their own homes. The voice signal will be relayed through the South African ground station.

The new concept requires three things:

  • the ARISS telebridge radio ground station – a satellite Amateur Radio station with special equipment that an ARISS team member uses for teleconferencing
  • the astronaut on the International Space Station using the ARISS Amateur Radio station
  • students at their homes here on Earth

The telebridge radio operator links to the astronaut at the ARISS radio mic, and each youth then connects from home via their telephones. Their families can listen along with school faculty and the public from home. ARISS invites the public to view the livestream of the upcoming ARISS radio test at: https://youtu.be/2mflSlShPHA

List of Questions for the ARISS Contact

During the contact, youth will ask as many of the following questions as time allows:

1) How has seeing Earth from its orbit affected you, in your frame of reference when moving around the ISS, or in your perspective of humanity as a whole?

2) What happens if you vomit in the space station? How do you clean it up?

3) How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you while you are in space?

4) What will be your first meal when you get back to Earth?

5) What does it feel like when the rocket lifts off?

6) What does the space station smell like?

7) Was training to be an astronaut harder or easier than training to be a navy seal?

8) What experiment that you’ve done had the most unexpected results? What was the expected and actual outcome of said experiment?

9) How successful is your 3-D printer on the station?

10) We are a model rocket building club. Did you ever build model rockets when you were young?

11) What does microgravity feel like on your body?

12) Does the Earth look any clearer or less polluted now compared to when you flew in 2009 and with Canadian Chris Hadfield in 2013?

13) Do you play any games while you are on the ISS?

14) What kind of music do you listen to?

Stay tuned to the following websites for more information on the ARISS Program:

RAC ARISS page: https://wp.rac.ca/ariss/

Main ARISS page: https://www.ariss.org