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Cambridge students make radio contact with NASA astronaut on ISS

Students and radio enthusiasts were "over the moon" excited making contact with the ISS on Thursday

Despite static interference and a tense few moments where white-noise was all that could be heard, the Cambridge Amateur Radio Club (CARC) was able to make contact with the International Space Station on the patio of the Old Post Office Idea Exchange on Thursday. 

Anticipation mounted and worried looks started to dawn on the faces of the radio club and students eagerly awaiting to establish radio contact with astronauts aboard the ISS.

Trying to pinpoint the flying spacecraft soaring above earth's surface at 28,000 kilometres an hour is no easy feat after all, and after a few unsuccessful attempts to call the ship, worry began to set in. 

"NA1SS this is VE3SWA for our scheduled contact, over," repeated the amateur radio enthusiasts with no reply. 

Suddenly, out of a burst of static, ISS astronaut Dr. Kjell N. Lindgren could be heard confirming contact with the Cambridge library.

Around 15 children were able to step up to the mic and ask questions, getting a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak with someone literally out of this world. 

Questions ranged from, "what do the astronauts do when they are bored?" to "is there candy in space?" 

"Absolutely there is candy in space," replied Dr. Lindgren. "I asked for some of my favourite candy and they send it up in a food resupply. It's a good reminder of home." 

The call was done on a regular ham radio that anyone could have at home.

Scott Mitchell, club trainer and past president at the CARC noted that anyone with one of these radios could in theory attempt contact with the ISS if they knew what frequency they were operating at. 

When the call was finished, the radio club was "over the moon" excited about their accomplishment in contacting the ISS. 

“This is a rare opportunity that doesn’t come along every day and we’re excited we can help set this up and really make something memorable for these kids,” said Mitchell.

A live stream of the event can be viewed here.

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Joe McGinty

About the Author: Joe McGinty

Joe McGinty is a multimedia journalist who covers local news in the Cambridge area. He is a graduate of Conestoga College and began his career as a freelance journalist at CambridgeToday before joining full time.
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