The first amateur radio link-up between ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and Italian students was established yesterday morning at around 9:30 CET (08:30 UT). On this occasion two classes participated: the IIS Deambrosis-Natta School, from Sestri Levante, near Genoa, and the Engineering Faculty of the University of L'Aquila.
The double link-up with the International Space Station (ISS) was made possible thanks to the Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS) educational activity, which is part of the joint ESA-ASI programme of education activities for the ESPERIA Mission.
The high school students from Sestri Levante and the university students from L’Aquila took turns to talk with Paolo Nespoli. They were also fortunate enough to receive an unexpected welcome from STS-120 (NASA) Commander Pamela Melroy.
At the end of the contact Nespoli enthusiastically accepted to continue the dialogue during the next ISS pass. The second contact was established at 10:59 CET (09:59 UT).
"The radio link-up lasts about 10 minutes, which is about the period of time the International Space Station takes to pass over the place of the contact itself," commented Francesco De Paolis, the Italian ARISS mentor for the experiment. "We sincerely thank Paolo Nespoli for his kindness. This is a great message for our students."
In his answers to the students, Nespoli explained how as a child he had dreamt of becoming an astronaut, underlining that dreams really can become reality. He also stressed how exciting it is to take part in a spaceflight. He described the astonishingly intense physical and psychological experience of launching with the Space Shuttle and afterwards, experiencing weightlessness once in orbit.
When Francesco from the IIS Deambrosis-Natta School asked if Nespoli’s occupation is a job or a passion, the ESA astronaut answered with a wish that counts for everyone: that everybody can have a job that is their great passion, as he can as an astronaut.
"We are proud to provide such a service to schools and particularly to technical oriented ones. It is very important to establish a bridge between them and a technological challenge such as the ISS itself," said Gaston Bertels, President of ARISS-Europe.
ARISS is an international group of amateur radio societies in countries that participate in the ISS programme. Before a spaceflight with a European astronaut, schools can send an education programme to ARISS, including a request for a radio link-up with an ESA astronaut on board the ISS. On the basis of the proposals received, the international committee leading the ARISS programme choose the schools in close coordination with ESA, also taking into account the nationality of the ESA astronaut flying.
The second and final amateur radio educational activity during the Esperia Mission is planned for Wednesday 31 October at 08:33 CET (07:33 UT), with the participation of students from the Liceo Scientifico 'Galileo Galilei', in Civitavecchia, Rome, and from the ITI – LST Mottura, in Caltanissetta, the oldest mining school in Italy.