West Springfield, MA—The BIG E Space Chat was an unqualified success. Many hours of planning and effort went into making the ISS contact a reality.
Thirteen young STEM students who are taking space science workshops at New England Sci-Tech in Natick, Mass., were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on Tuesday, September 27, 2022 to ask questions of International Space Station pilot Bob Hines, KI5RQT, orbiting 260 miles above the earth via a ground station in Belgium. Held in The BIG E Arena, a large entertainment venue, the event garnered much news and television coverage at the fair which attracts 1.5 million people during its 17-day run. It was an out of this world experience for the students from across New England.
Following several informative videos, hundreds of people who gathered in the arena, along with a national audience watching via YouTube live stream, heard from: Gene Cassidy, Eastern States Exposition CEO; David Minster, ARRL CEO; Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC; and Bob Phinney, K5TEC. The pre-contact show was choreographed down to the minute in order to assure a smooth transition leading to the contact itself.
At approximately 2:30 PM ET, the audience heard astronaut Bob Hines, KI5RQT, reply to the ARISS ground station, ON4ISS:
“Oscar November Four India Sierra Sierra, this is Oscar Romeo Four India Sierra Sierra. Over.”
Over a dozen questions were asked by the youths and answered.
“The space station has to be flying over one of our ground stations… this one happened to be in Belgium,” said Bob Phinney, President of New England Sci-Tech. He told Springfield Channel 22 News, “The time had to be perfect. So the students got exactly ten minutes to get up and talk.”
“All the new opportunities that there are about new discoveries, new planets, and even new life,” said 11-year-old Harish Sathishkaumar.
Jack Warren told 22 News, “What fascinates me the most is the unknown…. There is just so much to learn!”
“The best thing about this work is that we probably changed one or two lives today,” said Fred Kemmerer. “The biggest takeaway from this momentous day; always to reach for the stars.”
The following day, Bob Hines tweeted this message from the ISS:
The BIG E Space Chat team consisted, in part, of:
- ARRL New England Division Director Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC
- New England Sci-Tech member Barbara Irby, KC1KGS
- Assistant Director Anita Kemmerer, AB1QB
- Western MA Section Manager Ray Lajoie, AA1SE
- New England Sci-Tech President Bob Phinney, K5TEC
- Vice Director Phil Temples, K9HI
Third-parties involved in making the effort a success included: the production company Black Helicopter, Limited; the BIG E Marketing team, and Eastern States Exposition CEO Gene Cassidy; NASA; and Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.
Several ARRL Headquarters staff from Newington, Connecticut attended the event including: ARRL CEO David Minster, NA2AA; Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1W, Director of Public Relations and Innovation; and Steve Goodgame, K5ATA, ARRL Education and Learning Manager.
At the conclusion of the contact, the youths were presented with certificates confirming their contact with Bob Hines aboard the ISS, signed by David Minster, NA2AA; Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC; and Bob Phinney, K5TEC.
Along with “Space Chat,” NESci-Tech is conducting a 12-month educational space science program that includes:
- Amateur Radio License Course
- Model Rocketry workshops
- Air-Powered Rocketry
- Introduction to Basic Electronics
- Introduction to Arduinos Electronics
- Public Telescope Nights
- Morse Code Introduction
- Elementary Mathematics for Modeling Rocket Flight
You can learn more about New England Sci-Tech’s educational space science program by visiting their website.
A recording of the pre-contact show and ARISS space station contact can be viewed on the NESci-Tech YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdxnD8uF8t0.