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Ground control to ISS

A world first took place at Mary Hare on 12th October when a group of ten pupils spoke directly to astronaut Mark Hei aboard the International Space Station.

Thanks to NADARS (Newbury and District Amateur Radio Society), and ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), a live link was created to the ISS.  Both organisations worked tirelessly the days before to erect a large antenna and install lots of radio equipment to ensure that contact could be made.

At 1212 contact was made as the space station flew 408km above the earth at a speed of 2800 km per hour.  With a specially created 'call sign' of GB4MHN, Lloyd Farrington from NADARS made contact and the questions began.

The ten pupils had entered a competition in school to be one of those chosen to ask the astronaut their own question.  Questions ranged from 'How do you shower in space?' to 'How can you tell directions in space?'  The pupils were clear and confident in their one minute slots and astronaus Mark Hei gave very concise answers.

After ten minutes staff and pupils gave a huge round of applause as a thank you to the astronauts and contact was lost as the space station flew out of range.


BBC and ITV film crews attended the event and interviewed many of those involved including a number of pupils.

A talk given beforehand by Susan Buckle from the UK Space Agency uncovered some very interesting facts about the space station:


1.  It is the size of a tennis court

2. It has lots of individual pods in which the astronauts live

3. Astronauts work to GMT

4. The sun rises and falls 16 times a day when on the space station

5. Astronauts have to strap themselves to the wall to sleep