It’s been 40 years since the first astronaut called a radio amateur on Earth. His name is Owen Garriott, who on December 1, 1983 called Lance Collister in Frenchtown, Montana. The call was made when Garriot was part of the crew who spent 10 days in space aboard Spacelab-1 and was the first communication between an astronaut and a non-NASA person. All of them were possible thanks to radio amateurs.
Most of the astronauts aboard the Artemis 2 mission, which will send a quartet of people around the Moon in late 2024, are certified radio operators and, according to an interview published in Spacethere is great chances that astronauts can call home from space.
“We think it’s important that everyone, especially for children, since it determines what they want to do with their lives, have the opportunity to speak with astronautssaid Phil A. McBride, president of Radio Amateurs of Canada. After four decades of communication with low-Earth orbit, he added, the hope is that radio amateurs will go further: to the Moon.
Currently today’s amateur radio operators communicate with astronauts through the station on the International Space Station (ISS), with the primary goal of allowing students to speak directly with astronauts. As of 2022, NASA reports that more than 100 crew members have been connected with 250,000 participants on land through this medium.
For now it is not clear if on board Artemis 2 they will have the radio amateur equipment since the mission manifesto has yet to be decided. In theory, however, the main requirements would be adequate power and storage space for radio equipment, free time for the crew to radio during their 10-day mission, and a line of sight to Earth. All this possible.
The call of science
Three of the four Artemis 2 astronauts are certified radio amateurs. The other crew member, NASA astronaut Christina Koch, was studying for a 2019 amateur licensing exam when her year-long mission was rescheduled six months early. Koch delayed certification to complete training for the mission for his stay of 328 days which ended on February 10, 2020. This indicates that Koch would also eventually be able to directly connect to our planet from the Luan.
According to McBride, amateur radio tends to instill valuable interdisciplinary skills in the community. Math skills are a must, along with technology. The current ISS collaboration involves all major partners: NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), Roscosmos (the Russian agency) and the Canadian Space Agency. Artemis will have a similar international focus for its crews, so presumably if it becomes take the radio amateur on board those missionsseveral countries will be involved and will be able to participate.
The astronauts themselves have said how much this kind of contact means to them. «I get excited every time I read a report about a contact radio amateur – concludes NASA astronaut Sunita Williams -. You review the questions and it looks like there are only 10 kids, then you read a report about how many people attended that event and how much preparation and time the kids took. It’s good to know that it has such a big impact.”
In the same way that landing on the Moon caused an increase in applications to pursue scientific careers, being able to speak with an astronaut who is on the Moon at that time, can change the lives of thousands of boys and girls take that example and follow it.