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Students at UK School for Deaf Youngsters Enjoy Space Chat

10/14/2021

Students at the Mary Hare School for deaf children in the UK took part in what appears to have been a world-first event for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). Facilitating the late-morning direct contact with astronaut Mark Vande Hei, KG5GNP, at NA1SS were ARISS-UK and members of the Newbury and District Amateur Radio Society (NADARS). The ground station used the call sign GB4MHN. ARISS-UK volunteers handled the technical aspects, while NADARS members provided students with the “amateur radio experience” through events and activities.

Students asked their questions orally, and the astronaut’s replies — as well as questions and answers posed by the audience before the contact began — were displayed in closed caption format beneath a huge video screen.

The Mary Hare School is an aural school for the deaf that teaches students to develop lip-reading skills and to make use of technology. Students range in age from 5 through 19 years old. An enthusiastic audience of some 250 individuals was in the auditorium, where the contact took place, while another 600 students at other locations in the school observed the contact via a web feed.

Leading up to the contact, students at the school learned about radio- and space-related topics that touched on physics, chemistry, and biology. Student activities have included designing and flying model rockets, making astronomical observations, and observing authentic spacesuits.

Students wanted to know if the astronauts used sign language in space in case something goes wrong, how the ISS would be evacuated in the event of a fire, and whether mobile devices such as cell phones work in space.

“You made my day!” Vande Hei said after all the questions had been asked and the students had applauded.

A livestream was available and has been archived.

Amateur radio equipment has been on board the ISS for more than 20 years, and most astronauts hold ham radio licenses. A live web feed will be available. 



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