Space technology is not all high-tech – standard radios operated by amateur enthusiasts are used to communicate with the International Space Station and Luca Parmitano - talked to Italian children using the Station radio while flying over his home country.
ARISS, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, is an organisation that promotes contact with astronauts in orbit through basic radio technology. It is run by volunteers who work closely with the national space agencies, including ESA, and has achieved more than 700 school contacts with the Station so far.
Luca has a radio licence and can use the Station’s ham radio to contact amateur radio stations on the ground in his free time. The multiband and multimode radio equipment on the Station is in Europe’s Columbus laboratory.
Since the Space Station circles Earth at over 28 000 km/h, only ten minutes of direct radio contact are available at a time, after which it flies out of range. During those ten minutes, Luca will answer questions prepared by the students.
The opportunity to speak with an astronaut highlights how spaceflight can inspire children to consider a career in science, while illustrating principles behind everyday phenomena.