Children are full of hopes and dreams, still maintaining an innocence that lets them believe in themselves, and the world, that they can achieve anything, One 8-year-old girl from the UK, in particular, had her dreams come true when her father's ham radio connected to the International Space Station.
Isabella Payne managed to make a quick call to NASA's space station with the help of her father Matt, an amateur radio enthusiast. It may have been a small step for NASA but it was a giant one for this father-daughter duo, especially because of the response they got.
A Young Love For Space
Isabella may be young but she already has found a path in life that both excites and fascinates her. Space, and its endless possibilities and concepts we can't even yet grasp with our human minds, gave her a sense of purpose and taught her how big the world truly is at a young age.
She fell in love with space when she was just two years old, according to her father. The little girl would watch students in her spare time learning about space communication and travel: "April 23, 2016. A 2-year-old sat on my knee and watched the students of Wellesley House school chat with @astro_timpeake, an event I helped organize,' Isabella's dad shared on Twitter.
All It Took Was 45 Seconds
Isabella didn't expect much when she made her attempt to contact with the largest modular space station currently in low Earth orbit. However when someone on the other line answered: "Welcome to the International Space Station," Isabelle understood that all it takes to make a dream come true is hard work and determination. She didn't have fancy equipment and a calculated plan, all she had was her dad's amateur ham radio.
The whole conversation lasted 45 seconds, but its impact would last a lifetime with the little girl, along with the astronaut that picked up the line.
"Today she got her chance. Thank you so much @astro_kjell, you have changed her world," confirms her dad.
Out Of This World Opportunity
The exchange was possible because of her father's hobby of using an amateur radio station to speak with other operators across the world. However, it took some skill and luck to be able to align the timing with station NA1SS onboard the ISS and get through to Kjell Lindgren, commander of NASA SpaceX Crew-4 who launched to the ISS in April 2022.
The conversation went like this:
"Welcome to the International Space Station," Lindgren welcomed the caller after they exchanged some technical formalities needed for radio communication.
“My name's Isabella, I'm 8 years old," Isabella said.
"Isabella, it's so great to chat with you, thank you for getting on the radio and saying hello," Lindgren replied.
“Thank you. Fly safe,” Isabella added.
The audio ends there but the conversation continued later on Twitter when the commander took to his personal account to share his thoughts about the exchange. You'll find his answer below.
An Exclusive Opportunity
How the father-daughter duo managed this interaction comes down to this: 'It's a little bit of knowledge but mostly pure luck." Matt said when answering a question on Twitter about how his radio connected to the International Space Station.
'There's a very specific set of circumstances when you can actually talk with an astronaut onboard the ISS and on this occasion, it all came together." On a normal basis, the ISS crew uses the radio to hold Q&A sessions with school kids a couple of times a year but the line is only open then.
The chances of Isabella getting this opportunity outside of those hours were slim: "It's pretty rare to speak to an Astronaut outside of a scheduled educational contact. There are several factors that need to align for it to happen," Matt added.
The Astraunaut Was On His 2nd Mission
Kjell Lingren was the astronaut who picked up the line and made the little girl's day. Kjell has been with NASA since 2009 and is on his second mission in space. The astronaut has even logged 15 hours and four minutes of spacewalk time!
However just as he made an impact on her, she also did on him showing the power that we all have on one another. He tweeted about the interaction, writing: "
"I've had a lot of fun using the #ARISS amateur radio station #NA1SS on the @Space_Station to talk with ham radio operators all over the world," the astronaut said in a quote tweet of Matt's original message. I've even (unofficially) worked stations on all continents! But this may be my favorite contact so far. Thanks, Isabella and @m0lmk!'
The Space Crew
It takes a lot of extensive training to become an astronaut. Basically, all of the skills we take for granted like walking have to be relearned. Asustraunts even have to relearn how to use a toilet with a vacuum without gravity.
The Expedition that Kjell was on had 67 astronauts and his aircraft was named the spacecraft in honor of Alan Shepard, the first American in space who flew "Freedom 7" on May 5, 1961. The crew was known as SpaceX Crew Dragon 'Freedom' and the team had been aboard the ISS for a total of five months running scientific experiments. This call was a reminder of the world they left behind and a little touch of home.
The Reality Of Space Travel
Space travel is fascinating and we have made leaps in how far we've come yet it's still a rare opportunity that few of us get, mostly because of its price and extensive training and requirements. Space travel has become much safer as scientists have overcome potential problems, but it's still dangerous.
It’s also very expensive with one space shuttle launch costing about $450 million! A space shuttle has to fly extremely fast at 15,000 miles per hour to break out of Earth's gravity where all rules about our living conditions go out of the window. Without the right preparation, astronauts would not survive.
Sheer Luck Or Fate?
The radio on the ISS is part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project, an initiative designed to inspire the rest of the world, especially kids to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, it only opens those lines at specific times.
“The ISS must be passing within LOS (Line Of Sight)... at a time that coincides with an astronauts 'down time,' as in they must not be working doing an officially scheduled task. There must be an astronaut who is actively using the Amateur Radio equipment to make unscheduled contacts,” Matt explained. The duo got lucky that the astronaut just happened to be listening just as they reached out.
He adds: "You have to get the right time when the space station is passing overhead and it has to be the right time of day when the astronaut is actually using the equipment."
Sometimes things really do fall into place at the right time.
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