August 08 July, 2002


The 100 plus youngsters on spacecamp at the Euro Space Center, Belgium had a very special rendez-vous yesterday evening with astronaut Peggy Whitson. An ARISS direct radio contact had been scheduled for the Euro Space Center clubstation ON4ESC.

In the auditorium, on the big screen, the 8-15 years old children saw the ISS approaching Europe from over the Atlantic Ocean. They had been introduced to ham radio on the ISS and now, half an hour before the contact, they were putting dozens of questions and eagerly gathering answers from the ARISS representative.

These were Dutch speaking and French speaking youngsters. A computer programme had been developed for assistants in charge of translating the astronaut's answers from English into Dutch and French. Two beamers showed the text on the left and on the right side of the big screen.

"NA1SS, here is ON4ESC. Nice to hear you...". For ten minutes, Peggy Whitson's voice filled the place while answering a dozen questions. "When I was nine, I watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon and I thought that it would be a very special job to be able to be an astronaut", she said when asked what made her want to be an astronaut.

Two TV stations with national coverage as well as major newspapers covered the event which is in today's main news in Belgium.

ARISS is an international project, with participation of the Space Agencies involved in the International Space Station and amateur radio societies of North America, Europe, Russia and Japan.