Abstract from ESA Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti's logbook
Yesterday, December 15, I had my first HAM radio contact with school pupils. A big hello to the students of the schools "Elena di Savoia" in Bari and "Alessandro Volta" in Bitonto! It was fun talking to you and thanks for the great questions!
Amateur radio contacts between astronauts and school kids have a long tradition on ISS, thanks to a little army of volunteers in many countries who work with the local schools not only on the day of contact, but also in the weeks and months leading up to the event: they teach students about radio technology and about space, to get them ready and hopefully excited about the event.
From my side, I only needed to be ready on the proper channel at the proper time: it is very important, because we need direct line-of-sight with the amateur radio station on the ground and the pass is only about ten minutes long. A couple of minutes before the expected acquisition-of-signal time, I started making calls to check if someone was already picking me up. Eventually I picked up a call from the ground station and sure enough, we started our conversation. I heard them loud and clear, which positively surprised me: somehow I expected signal quality not to be as good. I hope they had the same quality on the other side.
On such contacts, there is no time for small talk and formalities: in less than ten minutes, we had to make sure that the 20 students who were lined up to ask their question got their chance. So here I was, ready to go. And here came the first question are you ready? Here it is:
“It is known that people become taller when they are in space. What happens to bio-molecules? Is there any alteration in the tertiary structure of proteins?”
I almost fell off my chair… well, if I had had a chair. (Wonder what a good equivalent of this expression would be in weightlessness… any suggestions?)
Where are the good old question about space food and the space toilet? Jokes apart, I was really impressed with all the questions: they showed a great interest and knowledge in science and technology and gave me great hope for our future generations of scientists and engineers. Keep up the great work, girls and boys.
Samantha Cristoforetti - IZ0UDF