Michigan Amateur Radio Operator Contacts ISS Astronaut with DIY Gear: Bridging Earth and Space through Ham Radio

This article recounts the remarkable achievement of a Michigan amateur radio enthusiast who successfully communicated with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station using homemade equipment. It also highlights a unique educational program, ARISS, that connects students with astronauts, fostering a new generation of space enthusiasts.



2/21/20241 min read

In Michigan, a ham radio enthusiast managed to have a conversation with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station using a DIY setup that included a portable antenna. The event was surprising to many, including the person who achieved it. As a token of the exchange, the astronaut sent back a QSL card, which serves as confirmation of the conversation.

Moreover, there's an informal initiative that facilitates dialogues between students and ISS astronauts via ham radio.

The organization behind this, known as Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), is largely run by volunteers and plays a pivotal role in setting up interactions between students and space station astronauts. These students have the opportunity to ask their questions quickly, one after the other, through the ham radio, within the limited time frame of about 10 minutes, which is the duration the space station remains within communication range.

Kenneth G. Ransom, who coordinates the ISS Ham project at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, likens their efforts to sowing seeds in the hopes of nurturing future generations of space enthusiasts.

The fact that such communication is feasible with relatively low-powered devices highlights the proximity of the ISS to Earth, hovering only about 200-250 miles above us. This distance is comparable to that between Dallas and Houston or New York City and Boston.