January 8, 2003


Wednesday 8 January 2003 at 07:35 UTC, i.e. 08:35 local time, the Immaculate Conception elementary school, located in Brest, France had a rendez-vous with US astronaut Don Pettit, KD5MDT, Science Officer on board the International Space Station.

Early in the morning, thirty schoolchildren, their teachers and parents gathered in the room where the local amateur radio club had set up the special satellite station. The mayor of the city of Brest, François Cuillandre, assisted and the event was covered by two TV stations, a radio broadcaster and two newspapers.

All along the 2002-2003 school year, the pupils of grade CM2 (age 10-11) and their teacher Anne Jaouen study radio telecommunications with the support of the Brest Amateur Radio Club. Financed by Brest City Hall's Cultural Department, this activity concentrates on technology and on the history of radio communications from the beginning of the 20th century to the present days, from radio tubes to transistors. Hands on experience consists in building a cristal radio set and the children have also communicated from their classroom with French amateur radio stations.

The pupils were actively involved in preparing the questionnaire for the ARISS School Contact. They studied some basics of astronomy, made models of the solar system, showing lunar phases, the sky, the sun and the earth. They also saw pictures taken on board the ISS and transmitted on television.

The children wrote poems on this theme and illustrated their poems with paintings representing the adventure of space exploration and the planets. These chef d’oeuvre now decorate the walls of the school.

Right on time, when called by Louis, F6CGJ operating the club station F6KPF, Don Pettit, KD5MDT came back loud and clear. Season's greetings were exchanged and Don started answering the questions. The signal was strong and Don's voice sounded as if he was adressing the audience from the floor. At the end of the pass, when the signal went low, 18 questions had been handled. Many thanks and a loud applaus from the audience ended this perfect space talk.

Gaston Bertels, ON4WF
ARISS Vice Chairman