Close to 300 students in the Caribbean got a very long distance call from the International Space Station on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. Crew members aboard the station used the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, or ARISS, to make contact with their eager audience on the ground. The goal was to inspire students and educators via an interactive space experience. This was the first ARISS communication for the Caribbean region.
The ARISS conversations usually last about 10 minutes. During that time, chosen students on the ground ask questions, which the crew answers from the space station. Questions during the Caribbean contact ranged from how space travel affects human health and how the space station was powered and maneuvered to concerns about space debris. Students also wanted to know what it was like to be an astronaut, asking about the most difficult aspects of the job.
Students prepared by learning about the space station, radio waves and how amateur radio works, as well as proposing questions to ask the crew. Ken Ransom, project coordinator with the International Space Station Ham Radio Program, points out the educational benefits of the approximately 50 conversations that take place every year. "The ARISS program is all about inspiring and encouraging by reaching the community and providing a chance for schools to interact with local technical experts. It also brings the space program to their front door."