Making Contact

While you might not be able to communicate with space aliens, did you know that you can directly talk with astronauts aboard the International Space Station?

Amateur radio has been featured in science-fiction films such as Contact, Frequency, and Independence Day. While the extraterrestrials and situations in each are fictional, you can connect with real people across the nation, the globe, and even beyond by learning to use amateur radio equipment. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program allows educators and students to schedule time to communicate with the station’s international crew, but any radio operator can attempt to connect and see if anyone is up for a chat.

Astronaut Sunita Williams speaking over amateur radio on the International Space Station.

With 2019 being the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, it’s also important to note that the moon plays a role in amateur radio, too. Technicians reflect radio waves off of the moon in a technique called Earth-Moon-Earth propagation or “moonbouncing” to reach distant locales.

The moon as seen from the International Space Station

Interested in giving it a try? Contact the Eau Claire Amateur Radio Club to talk with current radio operators and to become certified. And you can learn more about amateur radio here at the library.

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