Friday 7 March 2003 at 7:36 UTC, i.e. 8:36 local time, the Istituto Tecnico (technical highschool) Industriale Malignani IV3FLG of Cervignano-del-Friuli in the Region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy, performed a radio contact with US astronaut Donald Pettit, KD5MDT, Science Officer on board the International Space Station.

Cervignano-del-Friuli is a small town between the two cities of Udine and Trieste (the former main harbour of the Austrian Empire in the Adriatic Sea). It is located 20 km from the border to Slovenia, 10 km from the sea, the Gulf of Venice, and about 90 km (60 miles) east-north-east of Venice, the capital of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, the most north-eastern part of Italy, bordering Slovenia and Austria.

Maurizio Grendene, IV3ZCX, the coordinator of the school station and operator of the radio contact, did a very good job! The technical team of the local amateur radio club set up a satellite station with automatic antenna tracking as well as a vertical backup antenna.

Moreover they implemented two amateur television links on the 23 cm amateur band with two other schools of the area. This increased the audience from the 100 students at Malignani to a total of about 600. The students of the Scuola Elementare (elementary school) of Cervignano-del-Friuli, 4 km from Istituto Malignani, and the students of the Liceo Scientifico (science highschool) "Albert Einstein", 1.5 km from Istituto Malignani, were able to see on the screen and to listen to the radio contact with the International Space Station NA1SS.

Giving young people an idea of the impact and the fascinating aspects of amateur radio by demonstrating a direct contact with the Space Station was a goal perfectly achieved!

At exactly 7:36 UTC, right on schedule, contact with NA1SS was established. The questions covered many topics. Don Pettit explained that the Space Station uses a variety of radio frequencies, from VHF to microwave communication via satellite. He enjoys taking pictures from different areas of the earth. He also explained that it takes about 8 and a half minutes to get from the surface of the earth into orbit and it takes about another day and a half to reach the Space Station.

The signal was all the time absolutely clear and loud. Then, during the answer of the 14th question, the ISS went over the horizon and the signal was lost.

The TV station "Tele Friuli" and several newspapers like the "Messaggero Veneto" and "Il Piccolo" covered the event.

Peter Kofler, IN3GHZ

ARISS mentor