July 7, 2003


Monday 7 July 2003 at 08:25 UTC (10:25 AM local time), US astronaut Ed Lu was on the air operating NA1SS. This was a scheduled ARISS School Contact set up for the youngsters on Space Camp at the Euro Space Center in Belgium.

About 150 children gathered in the auditorium. Some of them were Dutch speaking, others were French speaking and 45 were Americans living in Europe.

At 09:00 AM, Gaston Bertels ON4WF introduced the juvenile audience to the amateur radio service, the amateur radio satellites and the amateur radio stations used in space by astronauts and cosmonauts. The ISS amateur radio station was presented with some detail as well as the elements of a corresponding ground station. The presentation was done in three languages for this multilingual audience.

After a 10 minutes break, the youngsters had the floor. They put a wide variety of questions, some with a technical content calling for some explanation of the orbital movement of an earth satellite. The large screen tracking of the ISS on the world map, in orthogonal as well as in planispheric projection, was very helpful.

The tension culminated when the time of AOS was near. Several American children had prepared a series of questions and the day before had been trained to read their texts in the radio's mike. This had been a very realistic rehearsal, with the auditorium's audio turned on, and the transmitter's output connected to a dummy load.

Ed Lu answered the ON4ESC call on the very second the ISS circle of visibility touched the Euro Space Center's spot on the big screen. He answered 17 questions during the nearly 8 minutes long pass. At its closest approach, the ISS was 2000 km south of Belgium, over the Pyrenees, when the elevation above the Belgian horizon reached 18 degrees. The audio quality was excellent.

Eric: "If you change or add anything to the space program or the space station, what would it be? OVER". Ed Lu: "I would be delighted if I could participate to an expedition to Mars".

When the signals faded, Ed signed off and so did ON4ESC under loud applause of an enthusiastic audience.  

Gaston Bertels, ON4WF
ARISS Vice Chairman

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