ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, IZ0UDF, Conducts First ARISS School Contact


Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, IZ0UDF — for now, the sole radio amateur on the International Space Station — this week enjoyed her first Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact with students back in her native Italy. Cristoforetti arrived at the ISS in late November. The astronaut used the ISS call sign IR0ISS. This was a direct 2 meter contact through IZ7EVR, located at Elena di Savoia School in Bari, Italy.

“A big hello to the students of the schools Elena di Savoia in Bari and Alessandro Volta in Bitonto!” Cristoforetti enthused in her log. “It was fun talking to you, and thanks for the great questions!”

Cristoforetti allowed that a 10-minute ARISS school contact leaves little time for small talk. “[W]e had to make sure that the 20 students lined up to ask their questions got their chance,” she said. “So, here I was, ready to go. And here came the first question — are you ready?”

It is known that people become taller when they are in space. What happens to bio-molecules? Is there any alteration in the tertiary structure of proteins?

“I almost fell off my chair — well, if I had had a chair,” she joked. “Where are the good old question about space food and the space toilet?”

Jokes aside, Cristoforetti said, she was “really impressed” with the questions, which showed the youngsters’ great interest and knowledge in science and technology and “gave me great hope for our future generations of scientists and engineers.”

Cristoforetti pointed out that Amateur Radio contacts between astronauts and students only happen through the efforts of “a little army of volunteers in many countries” who work with the school in the weeks and months leading up to the contact, teaching students students about radio technology and space.

“From my side, I only needed to be ready on the proper channel at the proper time,” she said. “A couple of minutes before the expected acquisition-of-signal time, I started making calls to check if someone was already picking me up. Eventually I picked up a call from the ground station, and, sure enough, we started our conversation. I heard them loud and clear, which positively surprised me: somehow I expected signal quality not to be as good. I hope they had the same quality on the other side.”

Cristoforetti has been taking advantage of various social media to keep her earthbound followers informed about her 6-month mission on the ISS. — Thanks to ARISS-EU Chairman Gaston Bertels, ON4WF