Amateur radio connects Discovery class to space station

As photographers capture the session, Discovery students, seated, talk with an astronaut onboard the International Space Station. (CONTRIBUTED)
As photographers capture the session, Discovery students, seated, talk with an astronaut onboard the International Space Station. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Amateur radio may seem low-tech, but this medium went sky high to an in-flight astronaut for Discovery Middle School students.

“The students chatted with astronaut Dr. Tom Marshburn (who serves as physician for the space station team) for approximately 10 minutes as the International Space Station flew directly over Huntsville,” Jane Caudle said.

The session was staged at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

“We put to use our amateur radio lessons that we explored for a month preceding the UAH field trip,” Caudle said. Caudle teaches eighth-grade physical science and serves as science department chair at Discovery. “This opportunity allowed our university students to share their experience with amateur radio to middle-schoolers in the area.”

Two of Caudle’s classes, or about 60 students, participated in the session. “Students asked questions about what astronauts did when they had personal time on the space station,” Caudle said.

In addition, the Discovery youth wanted to know about required training to become an astronaut. “What was the scariest thing that happened to you on board the ISS?” was one question. Four Discovery students had the opportunity for one-and-one conversations with an astronaut.

This exchange was affiliated with an education partnership program named Amateur Radio on International Space Station (ARISS).

About 120 area students joined members of the UAH Space Hardware Club “to ‘uplink’ with the astronauts,” Caudle said. The UAH club uses their hardware to establish satellite operations.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center hosted the ARISS exercise in conjunction with the UAH club members.

Discovery’s science field trip followed their previous ARISS session with the UAH Space Hardware Club in February. Former NASA chief Dr. Mike Griffin and space shuttle astronaut Jim Halsell visited Caudle’s physical science students and discussed the space station.

Griffin formerly taught mechanical and aerospace engineering at UAH.

ARISS is a cooperative venture among international space agencies to schedule communication sessions by amateur radio between astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the ISS and classrooms and communities. For more information, visit arrl.org/amateur-radio-on-the-international-space-station.

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