September 20, 2004


Saturday, September 18 2004, the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany was hosting "The long night of the stars", a big event in which 175 institutions and organisations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria participated.


At 20:54, Mike Fincke, Science Officer and Flight Engineer onboard the International Space Station, called the ESOC amateur radio clubstation DL0ESA for a scheduled ARISS contact. Rolf DK7FU operated the groundstation and the signals from Space were loud and clear.


Mike, KE5AIT sent his greetings and the greetings of Commander Gennady Padalka to the audiences at ESOC and in the many participating institutions. He spoke of his work onboard the ISS and mentioned the Spacewalks he has performed with Gennady. One of their tasks during these Extra Vehicular Activities has been to install antennas for the European ATV, the Automatic Transfer Vehicle which is presently near completion.


The astronauts have very busy days, but also some free time. They have dinner late, at 9 PM (UTC). They have telephones to talk to their family and they also stay informed of the news of the day. Mike is fond of reading electronic books that are uploaded on demand.


About stars and planets, Mike stated they look the same as from earth but don’t twinkle, since there is no atmosphere. He much appreciated the opportunity to discover the southern constellations. 


The ARISS contact was video broadcast across ESOC live. There was also a big screen in the open. It was a nice late summer evening and the sky was clear. A crowd followed the ARISS contact on the big screen outside and in the same time could see the ISS crossing the sky as a bright moving star. Quite an experience. When Mike Fincke stated that he was looking forward to the joint exploration of Space by all nations: “Humans’ Future in Space”, his words were followed with rapt attention by everyone, old and young, with a huge crowd of happy, excited faces all around.


At ESOC about 1200 visitors and 150 staff members assisted to the contact. Moreover, in the nearby Mannheim radio observatory 500 visitors also followed the spacetalk.


In total, 28 journalists and their associated staff covered the event, of which 11 newspapers and magazines, 3 news agencies, the Hessen TV-station (which relayed the material to the main nationwide channel ARD) and 4 radio broadcast stations.


The number of visitors in the 175 participating institutions was 120.000 and a sizeable proportion of these witnessed the ARISS contact live.



Gaston Bertels, ON4WF

ARISS Europe chairman


Audio of the ESOC Spacetalk