Maine high schoolers speak
with space station via ham radio

Excerpt From: The ARRL Letter - Vol. 24, No. 08 - February 25, 2005


"Good to be talking to you all. Welcome Rockland District High School in Rockland, Maine, from the International Space Station!" With those words, ISS Expedition 10 Commander Leroy Chiao, KE5BRW, kicked off an approximately 10-minute Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact on February 14 between NA1SS and W1PBR--the call sign of the Pen Bay Amateur Radio Club. It was the first ARISS school group QSO with a Maine school. Given that state's typically colder climate, it was perhaps no surprise that one student wanted to know how the ISS is heated.

"Space can be either very cold or very hot if you're in the direct sunlight, and the station has several control systems that help regulate the temperature inside--and we can actually set that temperature," Chiao explained. He said because the onboard equipment generates heat in addition to what the spacecraft absorbs from exposure to the sun, maintaining a comfortable living environment comes down to shedding heat to outside radiators. "So, depending on how much he we remove, we can control the temperature inside," he said.

Responding to another student's question, Chiao said it's true that the ISS crew sleeps in bunks that stand along the walls of the station. "We have what we call a 'sleep station,' and they're basically phone booth-size little boxes," Chiao said. There's one in the US segment and one in the Russian module. Their size isn't confining, however. "They're pretty small, but it's enough for a little privacy at night. You can get in there with your sleeping bag and your computer and watch movies or listen to music or read an electronic book," Chiao added.

With respect to the amount of room aboard the ISS, Chiao told another student that while there's not as much room in their space quarters as there is on the ground, the crew members quickly get used to it. "Especially in weightlessness, you can get to all three dimensions," Chiao said. "You're not just confined to walking around on the floor." Being able to float from place to place also makes more efficient use of the available space, he noted. "It's really not bad at all."

Part of Maine School Administrative District 5, Rockland District High School, with an enrollment of approximately 500, draws students from that mid-coast Maine city as well as from the neighboring towns of Thomaston and Owl's Head. Those participating in the ARISS contact are taking or have completed an integrated science course covering environmental and earth science, including astronomy. In all, the high schoolers got to ask 13 questions before the ISS went out of radio range.

Handling Earth station duties were George Caswell, W1ME, and Norm Smith, NY1B, with help from members of the Pen Bay ARC. The contact also was retransmitted over a local repeater.

The ARISS event had media coverage from at least two TV stations and one newspaper. Some 400 students and visitors were on hand in the audience.

ARISS is an international educational outreach program with US participation by ARRL, AMSAT and NASA.


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