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)|
AbstractHave 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
Cite This Page
Last edit date: 2017-07-28
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!
- Dismukes, K. (2010, January 20). International Space Station Reference: HAM Radio. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/reference/radio/
- ARRL staff. (n.d.). Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from http://www.arrl.org/amateur-radio-on-the-international-space-station
- Cowen, A. (2010, October 21). Making Contact with the Space Station. Retrieved October 27, 2010, from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/2010/10/making-radio-contact-with-the-space-station.php
News Feed on This Topic
Ask an ExpertThe Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.
Ask an Expert
If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Radio Frequency EngineerRadio frequency engineers help make sure that information gets from one place to another. This information is transmitted wirelessly as radio waves between electronic devices. Anything you can wirelessly send from one computer to another, listen to on the radio, download on a mobile phone, or see on the television (not connected to cable) is sent wirelessly using radio waves, and the transmission and devices were designed by a radio frequency engineer. Radio frequency engineers are typically electrical engineers who decided to specialize in radio frequency engineering. Read more
Sound Engineering TechnicianAny time you hear music at a concert, a live speech, the police sirens in a TV show, or the six o'clock news you're hearing the work of a sound engineering technician. Sound engineering technicians operate machines and equipment to record, synchronize, mix, or reproduce music, voices, or sound effects in recording studios, sporting arenas, theater productions, or movie and video productions. Read more
MathematicianMathematicians are part of an ancient tradition of searching for patterns, conjecturing, and figuring out truths based on rigorous deduction. Some mathematicians focus on purely theoretical problems, with no obvious or immediate applications, except to advance our understanding of mathematics, while others focus on applied mathematics, where they try to solve problems in economics, business, science, physics, or engineering. Read more
Electrical & Electronics EngineerJust as a potter forms clay, or a steel worker molds molten steel, electrical and electronics engineers gather and shape electricity and use it to make products that transmit power or transmit information. Electrical and electronics engineers may specialize in one of the millions of products that make or use electricity, like cell phones, electric motors, microwaves, medical instruments, airline navigation system, or handheld games. Read more
News Feed on This Topic
Looking for more science fun?
Try one of our science activities for quick, anytime science explorations. The perfect thing to liven up a rainy day, school vacation, or moment of boredom.Find an Activity