An 8-year-old girl from the UK has chatted to the astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) using her dad’s ham radio. Isabella Payne managed to catch a quick call to the ISS with the help of her father Matt, an amateur radio enthusiast from Kent, England.
Late in the evening on August 2, the pair took a punt at communicating with the amateur radio station NA1SS onboard the ISS. With a stroke of luck and some technical know-how, they managed to get through to Kjell Lindgren, commander of NASA SpaceX Crew-4 who launched to the ISS in April.
“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 conversation lasted a little more than 30 seconds, but Matt and Lindgren managed to catch up later that day on Twitter (below).
The radio on the ISS is part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project, an initiative designed to inspire people to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through amateur radio communications.
The ISS crew uses the radio to hold Q&A sessions with schoolkids dozens of times a year and, in theory, anyone with the correct piece of kit can communicate with the astronauts. However, Isabella was pretty fortunate to catch this opportunity.
“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 told IFLScience.
“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 official scheduled task. There must be an astronaut who is actively using the Amateur Radio equipment to make unscheduled contacts,” he explained.
Isabella doesn’t have any desire to become an astronaut, although she has picked up on her father’s passion for radio and would like to work as a communication specialist at a space agency when she’s older. After all, it looks like she does have a knack for it already.
“Isabella was amazed that Kjell answered her call. If you can imagine, for Kjell it must be like standing on a huge stage with 100's of people shouting out their name and he has to pick one out of all that noise! In Isabella's words 'It was amazing and very special'", Matt added.