This article was originally published in Radcom, vol.92 No.7 July 2016 p.72-73.
The staff and students of Derby High School, Bury, and its partner primary schools, had been preparing for their amateur radio contact with Tim Peake for months – researching the work of astronauts and learning about the science behind space exploration.
The assembly hall was full of excitement on the cloudy Monday afternoon in April. The show started with a ‘bang’, as ‘Isaac Newton’ (played by local actor Peter Joyce) demonstrated his famous discovery – gravity – in a practical manner, as well as how satellites can stay in orbit (the same way water stays in a bucket swung in a circle). Ciaran M0XTD from the ARISS team talked the students through the plan for making contact, including all the pieces of equipment that would allow them to both transmit and receive a radio signal from a target 400 kilometres high moving at eight kilometres per second.
Following Ciaran’s talk, the room went quiet – with just seconds to go until acquisition of signal (AOS). The students asked their questions quickly, and in the ten-minute contact window they managed to ask all twenty questions – an impressive achievement, requiring a lot of organisation!
Following the successful contact, the students had the chance to ask some questions of the panel – featuring Dr Helen Mason OBE, theoretical physicist from the University of Cambridge, and Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education at the UK Space Agency. One of the questions concerned exercise in space, and how it differed due to the zero-gravity environment, leading to an interesting discussion on Tim’s successful completion of the London Marathon on a space-borne treadmill the day before.
With the help of Bury Radio Society, several students had obtained their Foundation licences in advance of the contact, and even more had signed up to a special after-school Foundation course being run by the club. On the Friday prior to the contact, students had tried their hands at electronic construction – assembling Rodway medium-wave receivers provided by the Radiocommunications Foundation (RCF).
Maurice Fletcher M0TXK of Bury RS said that:
“The children were extremely well-mannered and overflowing with enthusiasm, a credit to the school. Considering they had not worked with electronic components or touched a soldering iron before, they did well. The look upon their faces was simply magic when they powered up the receiver and heard radio stations on work they had put together.”
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