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HAMing It Up with the Astronauts *

Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites You'll need to an amateur radio license (or work with someone who has one) to complete this project. Details on getting a license can be found at the American Radio Relay League's website.
Material Availability This project requires access to HAM radio equipment and a amateur radio license.
Cost Very High (over $150)
Safety No issues
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.


Have you ever wished you could talk to an astronaut on board the International Space Station? You're probably thinking "yeah, like NASA would ever let you do that!" Actually, they will! The International Space Station (ISS) is equipped with its own HAM radio station. The ISS HAM radio station allows astronauts, cosmonauts, and space mission specialists from different nations who are on board the space station to talk to people back home on Earth. Anyone with an amateur radio license is welcome to try contacting the astronauts there. If they aren't busy with other activities, they'll answer!


Amy Cowen, Science Buddies

Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies

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Science Buddies Staff. "HAMing It Up with the Astronauts" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Phys_p080.shtml?from=Blog>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2014, October 24). HAMing It Up with the Astronauts. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Phys_p080.shtml?from=Blog

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Last edit date: 2014-10-24


Physical Science fair project International Space Station orbiting Earth.

Physical Science fair project Astronaut uses ham radio onboard the international space station.

Figure 1. The International Space Station (top) is equipped with a HAM radio station (bottom) where astronauts, cosmonauts, and other space mission specialists can communicate with people back on Earth. (Photo on top NASA, May 2006; photo on bottom: NASA, June 2009.)

Making contact with the ISS requires some careful planning and logistics, though. The ISS is traveling approximately 240 miles above the surface of the Earth at a speed of nearly 17,000 miles per hour! To make contact, you'll need to carefully monitor the space station's trajectory and calculate your window of opportunity. The good news is, the ISS's high speed means it orbits Earth approximately 16 times a day, which gives you plenty of tries to get it right.

With a little bit of reading about the space station, you'll be ready to get your radio equipment in order and talk to the astronauts. For more suggestions on getting started, read the Science Buddies blog entry Making Contact with the Space Station and consult some of the resources in the Bibliography, below. Just make sure you document it all so your friends and your teacher don't think your project is just a piece of science fiction!


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