On January 12th, 2013, the International Space Station (ISS) soon to be commanded by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield passed directly over St. John’s, NL. Had it been a clear night, residents of the area would have been able to get a glimpse of the station as it floated overhead. The weather was overcast that Saturday morning, we didn’t get to see it, but we knew it was there. Members of the local amateur radio operators group SONRA saw an opportunity to make contact via radio with Cmdr. Hadfield. Great efforts were taken to coordinate the event and local Air Cadets were invited and given the opportunity to ask Cmdr. Hadfield questions. Given that the ISS travels and an unbelievably fast rate, orbiting the earth in just 90 minutes, SONRA only had a 10-11 minute window of opportunity to establish contact and communicate with the station. I was invited to come along to capture the event by Andrew Green, who helped set up for the event and kept a close eye on the antenna positioning as it followed the station overhead. Having been an Air Cadet myself for 7 years, I was very interested in going along to take a few photos and observe the communication. I have since learned that Cmdr. Hadfield was himself an Air Cadet for many years and like myself, he went through both the gliding and private pilot program the organization offers.
Shortly after 11am that day, the tracking software showed the ISS in range. It was time to attempt contact. Radio operator Keith Perry made the first call out to the space station as a room full of cadets, radio operators and media waited in anticipation. No answer. Keith tried again and we waited… still nothing. At this point we were getting a little worried that contact may not be possible. Suddenly, a break in the static… Cmdr. Hadfield’s voice cut in, he heard the call and was ready to take the first question. The cadets questions, as you will see some of in the video below, were insightful. Hadfield gave answers that were both informative and thoughtful. It was an experience that I didn’t expect to be as eye opening as it actually was. It’s hard to imagine how being in space would affect your perception of life on earth, Cmdr. Hadfield helped shed a little light on it.
Andrew all set up, waiting for the ISS to come into range.
WO1 Dylan Thomson prepares to ask the first question.
Tracking the movement of the ISS over Earth
A video clip of a few of the Q & A with Chris Hadfield