July 3, 2003


Every four years, the city of Rouen, France offers its harbour on the Atlantic Ocean to host an international sailing ships gathering : the Armada.

In 1999, from the deck of the Russian training ship MIR (20 officers, 38 men and 144 cadets), an amateur radio contact had been established with the Russian space station MIR. French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré and Russian cosmonaut Victor Afanassiev had exchanged greetings with MIR's captain and the Armada's officials.

Tuesday July 1st, an ARISS School Contact took place from the same sailing ship MIR, anchored in Rouen's harbour for the Armada 2003. Students of the nearby Val Saint Denis College were on board and offered astronaut Ed Lu a birthday present when contact was established by singing "Happy birthday to you". Then Ed Lu answered 13 questions presented by the students.

There were no favourable ISS passes over France during the Armada event. Therefore the contact was done by telebridge. When the contact was established at 13.41 UTC (15.41 local time in France), the ISS was cruising over the Pacific. Nancy Rocheleau's amateur radio ground station WH6PN, located in Honolulu, Hawaii set up the radio link and relayed the signals to France by phone conferencing.

France Telecom offered the phone line on MIR and MCI offered the teleconference. ARISS and the French team express their thanks for this support.

Worth mentioning is the rapid intervention of France Telecom's technical service when, all of a sudden, shortly before the contact, the phone line on MIR went dead. It appeared that the cable was broken, torn off by the ship's movements due to the tide. A new cable had to be installed and only a few seconds before AOS (acquisition of signal), the line was reestablished. A narrow escape...

Congrats to the Fédération Départementale des Associations de Radioamateurs de la Seine Maritime (FDARSM) and especially to the team of Philippe Caron, F6BTP who set up the event.

Gaston Bertels, ON4WF
ARISS Vice Chairman