Caroline Harney

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

(Phone: 301/286-0040)

Release No. 00-145

On December 19, 2000 at 3:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, students at the Burbank School in Burbank, Illinois, will close their textbooks, put on radio headsets, and use amateur radios to communicate with astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Located in a Chicago suburb, the Burbank K-8 school will be the first school to use a ham radio to contact the Expediton1 crew aboard the ISS. That crew — Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko, Expedition 1 Commander Bill Shepherd and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev – were launched, Oct. 31, 2000, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and are the first residents to live on board the space station.

Rita Wright, a teacher at the Burbank school and the project coordinator, has been teaching science and math for thirty-one years in the southwest Chicago suburb school district. “If you walked into our school today and wandered down the halls, you would be surprised at the variety of topics, activities, and displays of work all centered around the ISS mission,” Wright proudly states. “Our school is vibrating with excitement and activity.”

To prepare for the December 19th contact, first grade classes- created two themes: “Flying High is Grade One,” and “Adventures in Space.” Second grade classes- composed essays titled “Why I Want to be An Astronaut.” The junior high classes created power point presentations, slide-shows and simulated models of future ISS stations. The entire student body (700 students) developed questions and auditioned for the interview slots. Fourteen students were selected and they are from the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 8th grades.

The seeds for this first-ever linkup were planted in 1996 when Rita Wright discovered that ham radios were excellent teaching tools for eighth graders interested in NASA and space exploration. In January 1996, Wright completed the ARISS (Amateur Radio International Space Station) application, and submitted an Educational Proposal to The American Radio Relay League, hoping that amateur radio would attract eighth graders to science. After four years, patience and a lot of hard work has finally paid off for Wright and the students at the Burbank school.

Frank Bauer, chief of the Guidance, Navigation and Control Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the vice president for the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation’s (AMSAT) human spaceflight division, spearheaded the initial development effort to get the ham radio on the space station. “The contact itself is just the tip of the iceberg,” Bauer said. “Rita Wright’s diligence for the past four years is remarkable. She has kept NASA’s team up to speed and has maintained the students’ interest. We at NASA are really excited this educational outreach opportunity and we’re even more excited about the enthusiasm of their students.”

Planning for the deployment and use of the ham system aboard ISS has been an international effort coordinated by Goddard. The project began in 1996 with the formation of an organization called ARISS to design, build and operate the equipment. ARISS is made up of delegates from major national amateur radio organizations and from AMSAT.

Hams, as amateur radio operators are often called, use radio transmitters and receivers to talk to other hams all over the globe, as well as those in space. There are more than 1.5 million licensed hams worldwide, including more than 660,000 Americans.

Radio amateurs must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In order to receive a license, a ham must pass an examination which entails questions about radio theory, rules and regulations.

Hams around the world will be listening in on the Burbank school’s call to the ISS crew on the 19th. The contact will occur on the ISS amateur radio downlink– the 145.80 MHz public frequency.

For additional information about amateur radio contact and the Burbank School ISS mission go to:

For more about the International Space Station, visit: