Local K-12 students to experience radio connection with astronauts on International Space Station March 10
At 1:07 pm on March 10, 2016, four hundred K-12 students, teachers, University of North Dakota (UND) students, and community members sat quietly in the Memorial Union’s ballroom at UND and stared straight ahead, listening attentively. The HAM radio, broadcasting silence, suddenly burst out with static. The voice of astronaut Tim Kopra, Commander of the International Space Station (ISS), confirmed he could hear us “loud and clear”. The excitement in the room was palpable – we had established the complex link from North Dakota all the way to an orbiting research center flying 200 miles above us, traveling at nearly 18,000 miles per hour. This was NASA’s historic 1,000th ARISS call – and first ISS radio call to North Dakota.
This long-distance connection was made possible by the collaboration between the North Dakota Space Grant Consortium (NDSGC), the Student Amateur Radio Association (SARA), and the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS). The ARISS mentor, Charlie Sufana AJ9N, worked with the NDSGC and SARA for an entire year, helping to make this event a success. With help from the UND Aerospace Network, colleagues, friends, and family from across the nation were able to view the contact through a live video stream.
Sixteen students, ages ranging from second grade to graduate school, asked CDR Kopra their own questions, within a 9-minute contact window. The attentive audience heard responses such as how he became an astronaut, his exercise routine on the Space Station, and advice to work hard in school. “My advice to some of you who might want to work for NASA or any place that requires a high level of academic achievement is to study very hard and work hard in school. When you do well in school and learn a lot, it’s like money in the bank. You can always use that for future opportunities,” CDR Kopra stated. He also admitted how he has a new personal photography goal – imaging North Dakota from space!
After receiving classroom visits from the NDSGC team in preparation for this day, students traveled to the event at UND from all across the ND region – Kindred, Grafton, Grand Forks, and even Crookston, MN. They participated in twelve different hands-on activities throughout the morning, such as constructing and launching paper rockets, constructing a robotic CanadArm, and releasing their own Orion Capsules with parachutes. There were four college-level demonstrations: the Radio Association, Formula One Car organization, and two NASA competition teams, Rocketry and Robotics. The UND Space Studies Department provided their interplanetary rover and analog space suits (part of the NASA EPSCoR program), demonstrating their functionality to all of the students. Additionally, the UND Physics and Teaching and Learning Departments provided the GeoDome – an inflatable planetarium – one of the students’ favorite stations.
This historic 1,000th ISS call was successful due to the collaboration between organizations, the gracious volunteers, and the teachers’ flexibility with scheduling. Commander Kopra may have spoken to only 16 students that day, but in fact, he impacted the lives of the entire North Dakota community.
Check out the event’s coverage, highlighted on the web!