September 4, 2009



Friday evening, September 4, 2009, the ESOC-ESA Long Night Of The Stars in Darmstadt, Geramy, performed an ARISS contact with astronauts Robert Thirsk, Frank de Winne and Christer Fuglesang. The contact was a telebridge between onboard station NA1SS and the ARISS telebridge ground station LU8YY in
Neuquen, Argentina, operated by Luis Funes. Peter Kofler IN3GHZ was the moderator of the contact.

ESOC is an establishment of the European Space Agency ESA from which all European science and earth observation satellites are controlled. To stay in contact with the spacecraft, ESOC designs and operates the ESA ground stations on several continents.

The event called 'The long night of the stars' welcomes the public to visit the centre and to see control rooms, facilities and to learn about space and satellite operations. A variety of attractions from live view to the stars by semi-professional telescopes, demonstration on robotics and artificial intelligence provided additional view in technological developments. For the visiting children a dedicated program was available. From making a virtual 3 dimensional tour from earth to space with virtual visits on the Moon or on Mars gave visions for the future in space. More realistic, a paper rocket building and a toy rocket flying contest did attract the attention of the youngsters.

For the ARISS contact, students aged between 14 and 16 years from the nearby school centre 'Schuldorf Bergstrasse', located in Seeheim, asked questions to the astronauts.

The audience at the contact site, right in front of the stage, was about 200 people. Moreover, the contact coordinator Rolf Maarschalkerweerd DF7FU implemented several audio and video links to all the visitor rooms of the Open Day event at ESOC. In that way other 750 visitors followed the ARISS contact.

Graham Lawton, G7EVY, helped the technical team in feeding into the AMSAT Echolink servers.

At 20.11 UTC contact with NA1SS was established by LU8YY but a sudden technical problem with the audio mixer at the ESOC contact site provoked a delay. A few minutes later, at 20.15 UTC, i.e. 22.15 local time, the former ESA astronaut Reinhold Ewald did send a greeting to his colleagues and the first question got finally through. The astronauts Robert Thirsk, Frank De Winne and Christer Fuglesang answered alternatingly 10 questions of the students plus a spontaneous question in the middle of the contact live from the stage. The audio from the ISS was mostly good with fading at times. Finally, the astronauts could hear the applause of the audience in

The contact was covered by the TV station Hessischer Rundfunk HR3, the radio station HR-Info Radio Hessischer Rundfunk Frankfurt and the two newspapers Frankfurter Rundschau and Darmstaedter Echo. There was a live coverage via the Internet (Kosmologs) and five free lancing journalists attended also the event.

Congratulations to the ESOC-ESA team!

73, Peter Kofler, IN3GHZ, ARISS mentor