Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Athlone Community College is delighted to be speaking to an astronaut this coming Monday

Athlone Community College is thrilled to be making contact with the International Space Station (ISS) through amateur radio this coming Monday afternoon in “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Students from ACC, many of whom are from South Roscommon, will have between 6-15 minutes to put Athlone on the astronomical map as they make contact with the ISS while it orbits Earth at a mind-bending 27,600km/hr. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station programme (ARISS), which will see students from Athlone Community College speaking with a US Astronaut onboard the ISS as it orbits the Earth.

In order to carry out this real-time Earth-to-space radio contact, which uses amateur radio equipment to beam a line-of-sight signal to the ISS, the ACC will set up a temporary amateur radio station on the grounds which will include a tracking antenna, and two-way radio system.

This will allow students to speak directly with physicist and astronaut Shannon Walker while she takes a break from her duties and experiments onboard the ISS, to answer the students’ questions. The ARISS ground station at ACC has been allocated the very special callsign EI1ISS (Echo India One India Sierra Sierra) by ComReg for the occasion. The exchange is due to take place at 2.50 on Monday afternoon.

The station will be operated by Irish members of ARISS Europe with support from the local amateur radio club in Athlone, the Shannon Basin Radio Club.

In the months leading up to the live event, Athlone Community College has been delivering engaging, fun, and educational events to prepare students. Aside from the Earth and Space curriculum in science, students at ACC have been busy creating questions to ask on the day, involving the local primary school students. There were close to 300 questions submitted in total. Some interesting questions submitted include ‘Does your sense of smell or taste change in space?’ and ‘What is the most interesting thing you have seen on Earth from the space station?’.

This event has been a year in the planning and science teacher and co-ordinator Ms Laura Donnellan said.

The whole school community are excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that both staff and students will not forget. I am delighted to be part of such a tremendous school that is now being recognised nationally and globally,” she said. “It is a massive opportunity for the students to see the possibilities and opportunities life has to offer and for all of us to see just how far technology has come. With all the mini events we have planned as a science department prior and all the guest speakers on the day, it truly will make for a memorable experience. Students are getting inspired to ‘Aim for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars’.”

Every department in the school got on board this huge event. The music department is learning space-themed songs in choir practice, the art department is decorating the school, the English department has got students writing short stories on the theme of space and space travel, the history department is teaching the space race. 

The school will be live streaming the event to every classroom in the school and externally. Ten students will brave the task of communicating with the astronaut and quizzing them about space.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” says student Brady Kelly.

Physicist and astronaut Shannon Walker

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