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ARISS Aiming to Raise Its Educational Profile


NASA, the US space agency, will assume more direct sponsorship of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program as an educational project. Among its activities, ARISS oversees the project that enables schoolchildren to speak via ham radio with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. NASA also will embrace ARISSat as an educational project for the ISS National Lab. A reconfigured, yet-to-be-named education planning group will pick up the mission of the ARISS Communications Council (ACC). These changes were among the outcomes of a meeting of NASA and ARISS-International officials, who gathered November 12-13 at ARRL Headquarters.


“Going forward this new group will provide oversight of educational objectives for the US [ARISS] program,” said ARRL Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, who hosted the NASA-sponsored meeting, held at W1AW. She said the new education group would, among other goals, develop a new process for reviewing applications to the ARISS program from US schools and organizations.

Changes under consideration are a school QSO application process that includes a specific application window, development of a rubric to evaluate the applicant’s proposed educational plan, and — once an application is accepted — a scheduling commitment for the contact to occur within a specific time frame. An educational plan is a required part of all proposals.

“These changes are being crafted to provide more focus on educational activities planned to accompany an ARISS contact,” Johnson said. She says that in anticipation of the wider audience resulting from NASA’s promotion of ARISS under the revised regime, ARRL and AMSAT will be recruiting additional local volunteers in the Amateur Radio community to support station setup for direct ham radio contacts with International Space Station crew members.

“The meeting provided an opportunity to share what we have been doing to support outreach from the Amateur Radio community to schools and an opportunity to share resources in the League’s Educational & Technology Program (ETP) with key NASA personnel responsible for education programs,” Johnson said.

The new arrangements will broaden ARISS’s emphasis on education. Those attending this month’s meeting also talked about possible synergies between the ETP and other League programs with NASA programs. “This may provide ways for us to distribute wireless technology literacy education more efficiently to a wider audience of schools and teachers,” Johnson added.

ARISS will continue to be an international educational initiative with ARRL, AMSAT and NASA as cooperating partners. The ACC was established in September 2009 to facilitate better communication among the ARISS sponsors in coordinating ARISS activities.

Cynthia McArthur, the wife of ISS veteran astronaut Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, will become the new head of the NASA Johnson Space Center Teaching from Space Office, which oversees ARISS. She has been program manager for the Teaching from Space Office.

Others attending this month’s session included Ed Pritchard, NASA deputy director for K-12 education; Deborah Brown-Biggs, a NASA contractor, who has direct program responsibility for ARISS among other projects; Mark Severance, N5XWF, ISS National Laboratory education projects manager; Mark Steiner, K3MS, ARISS-International vice chair; Barry Baines, WD4ASW, president of AMSAT; Rosalie White, K1STO, ARRL ARISS program manager and secretary of ARISS-International, and Dewey Rykard, KI4RGD, ARRL instruction and resource coordinator.




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