Wednesday 17th March saw the satisfactory conclusion of many months planning by the ARISS group and the Headmaster of Back School Mr John Maclean when a full 10 minute contact was made with Mike Foale the American astronaut.

Back School is located near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis - one of the Outer Hebrides group off the very north west coast of Scotland. It is a school with about 200 pupils ranging from 5 to 14 years and is located in quite a small village overlooking the bare North east coast of the island.

The contact was made via a telebridge using WH6PN located on Hawaii as the ISS was not in a suitable orbit for a direct contact with the school during reasonable school hours before Mike Foale's scheduled return to earth in mid April.

Twenty questions were asked by pupils and all were well answered by Mike. He commented that he expects that evidence of life will be found one day on Mars and that men will visit that planet within about fifteen years.

This contact represented a number of firsts. Obviously the first ARISS contact from the Isle of Lewis, the first Scottish telebridge contact and the first time where almost every pupil had already met the astronaut in person - Mike had visited the school for a day last summer during a holiday on the island before he set off for a six month stay in the ISS last October.

The contact was expertly coordinated in Back by Carlos Eavis operating as GM0AKI from the RSGB and he was supported by Graham Shirville G3VZV on behalf of AMSAT-UK.

In terms of publicity there were four radio and TV stations represented at the school and a total of fourteen interviews were given by the headmaster on the day to other national, regional and local media organisations. At least two Scottish national newspapers had photos and articles the following day and a regional daily paper had a front page photograph of the youngest pupil, Leanne Macdonald aged 5, asking her question. It even moved our National Budget announcements to an inside page.

Another successful ARISS contact! 

Graham Shirville, G3VZV

Back's school audio  

Back's classroom