Students from the Trinity Christian School at Wanniassa in the Australian Capital Territory made history on May 29 with the first Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact to be held in Canberra. The event was part of the Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) Centenary Dinner on May 29. More than 200 people attended the event, including international guests IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH/G4HUA, and ARRL International Vice President Jay Bellows, K0QB, as well as prominent Australians such as IARU Region 3 Chairman Michael Owen, VK3KI, Australian Communications and Media Authority Chairman Chris Chapman and WIA Centenary Patron Dick Smith, VK2DIK. The principal of Trinity Christian School is Carl Palmer, VK2TP/VK1TP.
With Philippe van Houte, ON5PV, in Belgium -- using the call sign ON4ISS -- ARISS Asia-Pacific Coordinator Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, made contact via telebridge with the International Space Station (ISS), A telebridge utilizes a dedicated ARISS Amateur Radio ground station located somewhere in the world to establish the radio link with the ISS. Voice communications between students and the astronauts are then patched through regular telephone lines.
The audience remained quiet and listened intently as the high school seniors asked a series of questions of ISS Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, KF5DBF, including her assignment in space. The QSO began with a brief speech by Caldwell-Dyson who congratulated the WIA on its centenary and commented briefly on Amateur Radio’s history and Amateur Satellites.
William Shaw, age 18, asked Caldwell-Dyson when she is in space, is she “above the law.” He wanted to know if there was a legal issue that could come up while on the space station where a nation’s law might apply. Caldwell-Dyson said that she did not foresee that there would be a legal problem on the space station and added that there were controls on what could occur in space.
Elizabeth Shen, age 17, asked about living in space with zero gravity, its effects on the body and whether there were changes to one’s normal blood pressure and pulse rate. Caldwell-Dyson told her that the crew is constantly monitored and that there are effects and rehabilitation on return to Earth that can take up to three months. Questions about sleeping in an environment with 16 sunrises and sunsets a day, space walking -- Caldwell-Dyson is to have that experience soon -- and the potential for collision with solid matter in space, rounded out the questions.
After the ARISS contact, the students said they were extremely impressed by the efforts made by astronauts to qualify and fly in space, giving them encouragement to strive in their chosen careers. Shen added, “The opportunity to speak to someone above the space station was one of the best experiences in my life.” Shaw said it was “really cool to be able to talk to someone who is in a completely different situation -- with the zero gravity and what not.”
WIA President Michael Owen, VK3KI, presented each student with a participation certificate, while WIA Centenary Patron Dick Smith, VK2DIK, shook their hands, spoke to them about their experience and had his photograph taken with them. Some information provided by ARISS and The Canberra Times.