ARISS Marks its 1000th Contact!
[UPDATED 2016-03-11 @ 2012 UTC] The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program is celebrating a milestone — its 1000th school radio contact. The first ARISS contact with students on Earth took place a little more than 15 years ago. On March 10, Astronaut Tim Kopra, KE5UDN, on the International Space Station (ISS) did the honors for number 1000 — a contact with students gathered at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, organized by the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium (NDSGC). The ARISS contact was the first to be hosted in North Dakota. Some 500 students and visitors were on hand for the big event. ARISS International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, congratulated the ARISS team on what he called “this phenomenal accomplishment.”
“With the outstanding support of NASA and the international space agencies participating in ISS, the ISS on-orbit crew members encompassing all 48 expeditions and the hundreds of ARISS volunteers world-wide, the ARISS team has reached a tremendous milestone: 1000 ARISS contacts between schools on the ground and the ISS crews on orbit,” he said. “Since our first contact in December 2000 to today’s contact in North Dakota, hundreds of thousands of students have participated in hands-on STEM learning that ARISS affords and many millions from the general public have witnessed human spaceflight in action through an ARISS contact.”
During the 10-minute ARISS contact Kopra answered 20 questions posed by youngsters and young people ranging from kindergarten to graduate school. A member of the winning 10th grade team from the Space Grant’s high-altitude balloon competition last fall was awarded one of the slots to interview Kopra.
Veteran astronaut Mike Fincke, KE5AIT, marveled at the number of contacts completed to date. “A thousand contacts. Who would have ever thought?” he said in a NASA video marking the milestone. “That means a thousand times we’ve had a chance to reach down to Planet Earth to make contact and to inspire the next generation of explorers. So, I congratulate the ARISS program, I congratulate Amateur Radio all over this beautiful planet for supporting these contacts — a thousand of ‘em!”
The NDSGC team, which included college student volunteers, made multiple visits to pupils in the 2nd through 5th grades at Emerado Elementary School in Emerado, North Dakota; Highland Elementary School in Crookston, Minnesota; Century Elementary School in Grafton, North Dakota; and Century Elementary and Discovery Elementary schools, both in Grand Forks. The university teams led the young students in hands-on activities and learning about aerospace, priming them for the interview with Kopra. The students, many from smaller rural communities, built and launched rockets, crafted and tested parachutes similar to those on NASA’s Orion capsule, and designed and tested neutral buoyant objects.
One of the students wanted to know what advice Kopra would give to students hoping to work for NASA. “Study very hard and work hard in school, because if you do well in school you'll learn a lot and it's like money in the bank for you and your future career,” Kopra responded.
Astronaut Tim Peake, KG5BVI — one of Kopra’s crew mates on the ISS — said in another NASA video marking the 1000-contact milestone that talking to schools via Amateur Radio was “one of the most rewarding activities” Peake described the onboard Amateur Radio setup and explained how he carries out a scheduled contact with a school. Peake, who is from the UK, uses the call sign GB1SS from the ISS.
The NASA ISS Program Office has produced an overview video to celebrate the achievement of ARISS contact number 1000.
ARISS telebridge station W6SRJ operators Tim Bosma, W6MU, and Don Dalby, KE6UAY, in Santa Rosa, California, supported the North Dakota ham radio linkup as the ISS passed over the West Coast, relaying audio to the students in North Dakota. AMSAT ARISS Mentor Charlie Sufana, AJ9N — who was the lead operator for the first ARISS school contact — guided the UND Student Amateur Radio Association and the FORX Amateur Radio Club through all aspects of the ARISS contact, which received local news media coverage.