On April 6, 2013 several PARC members (Richard VA3RMU, Paul VA3PB, George VA3OG and Vic VE3FOX) were present for a contact with the International Space Station (ISS). Held at Country Heritage Park in Milton, the event was organized to permit several of the Air Cadet squadrons in Halton Region to pose questions to the first Canadian Commander of the ISS, Chris Hadfield VA3OOG. Coincidently, Hadfield was a member of the 820 Air Cadet Squadron in his younger days, so this was a special occasion for them.
Facilities for the event were arranged and set up by Steve McFarlane VE3TBD from ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) Canada, along with his wife Lori. The purpose of ARISS is to teach about space exploration, inspire an interest in science and technology, and to provide an opportunity to learn about wireless technology through Amateur Radio.
After more than 100 Cadets from the various squadrons filled the room in anticipation of the contact, they were first shown some videos about life on the ISS as well as current and future explorations that are planned. Appropriately, one of the videos was of Hadfield and two other astronauts as they left earth in December 2012, aboard a Russian rocket, bound for the ISS.
Glenn VE3CEZ and Gord VE3OXP provided an Amateur Radio station setup and also projected a map of the earth on the wall, showing the trajectory of the ISS and where it was at any given time. Eagerly anticipating the contact, this allowed the cadets to better visualize where Hadfield was and how soon they could talk with him.
For this event, direct communication with the ISS was to be through Amateur Radio station LU8YY in Argentina. From there, all communications were patched into a telebridged network, allowing contact between the ISS and the Air Cadets in Milton.
As the ISS came closer to LU8YY, Hadfield’s voice could be heard, scratchy at first but then clear for all to hear. Cadets from the 820 Squadron lined up at the microphone with their questions for Hadfield, which he answered in an encouraging manner. Ten minutes later, as signals began to fade, it was over.
For many of those present this had to be the thrill of a lifetime. Hopefully, some will be pursuing lofty goals, much like Hadfield, as a result of the contact with the ISS. Who knows, maybe some will take that first step by also becoming Amateur Radio operators.