Space Station calls EU Parliament
A special exhibition opened on Monday at the EU Parliament in Brussels: 'European Amateur Radio Benefiting Society – Emergency Communications, Education and Space' shows how ham radios on the ground and in space can help Europeans in many different ways.
There was magic in the air on Tuesday afternoon, when the voice of American astronaut Timothy 'TJ' Creamer sprang from a loudspeaker in the lobby of the EU Parliament, where radio amateurs are presenting their activities for three days. 'TJ', an experienced radio amateur himself, with callsign KC5WKI, used ham station NA1SS aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for the linkup – from about 500 km away in orbit.
Many astronauts have amateur radio licences and use the Station’s ham radio to talk with users on the ground. They also talk with selected schools, as part of the ARISS (Amateur Radio in the International Space Station) venture. During the 10 minutes that the ISS is typically above the horizon and radio contact is possible, they answer questions from students.
This time, ISS and 'TJ' Creamer linked up with students and teachers from the European School Brussels II. They were accompanied by Members of European Parliament, EU staff members, radio amateurs and journalists totalling up to about 70 persons.
Later on in the afternoon, a trio of astronauts visited the exhibition: ESA's Frank De Winne, Russia’s Roman Romanenko and Canada's Robert Thirsk spoke about their radio experiences and ARISS as a valuable tool for education. Among the audience was also Vladimír Remek, Czech cosmonaut who has been member of the European Parliament since 2004.
"The radio contact with schools and individual persons on Earth was always really pleasant and provided a relaxing change to routine aboard the Station," said Frank De Winne at the opening.
"It is always a pleasure to talk to the youngsters who have often prepared for months to have radio contact with the ISS, and is really a pleasure to hear the excitement in their voice."
ARISS contacts allow to multiply education contacts and make the ISS a real classroom or at least a classroom extension for many pupils and students throughout Europe.
Amateurs helping professionals
The exhibition was initiated by German MEP Birgit Sippel and promoted by ESA Director of Human Spaceflight together with the European working group of the International Amateur Radio Union. It clearly shows how amateur radios offer not only an interesting hobby involving international cooperation and advanced technology, but can also be used in educational projects and serve as important backups in emergency situations.
Anyone with access to the EU Parliament can see the exhibition until 30 April.