HAM on the ISS
Ham Radio connects to space by being the only way for astronauts to communicate with their families. Sure, they have all the equipment they need to talk with NASA, but they have no way to talk with their families and children, or just talk to people out of the shuttle. Those shuttle trips take about a week. In a week of being about 240,000 miles from home, you can get pretty Earthsick. One of the ways to cure that is to talk with your family. That’s the only thing you can do in space, because you sure can’t put a letter in the mail. Since the ARISS, which means Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, Ham radio has been used on-board as a form of communication for the astronauts. A team has even been established for the ISS (International Space Station) called ISS HAM to help train the crew, work on hardware development and some on-orbit operations.
Can Kids talk to Astronauts?
They sure can! During SAREX, which means Space Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment, students got the chance to talk to astronauts in the space shuttles. Astronauts who had their Ham license could do this during their free time. The astronauts got a chance to talk to their families and friends and other Ham radio operators too.
What is Ham Radio?
So what is this type of radio with a very strange name? The actual radios can be as small as a hand-held Game Boy to as large as your computer. They get tuned into radio frequencies that are just above the AM broadcast bands all the way up to some extremely high microwave frequencies. These frequencies were reserved by the FCC for licensed operators to use; in other words for licensed hams who like to talk to other licensed hams.
You can have a pocket -sized radio that can communicate from California to Ohio. This works because part of getting a license is becoming one giant family to communicate with each other.
Who can be a Ham?
ANYONE! Ham Radio operators come from all walks of life, from world famous celebrities to everyday folks like you and me. There is no age limit on how old you have to be to get your license. There are a handful of people who have gotten their highest ranking license under age of 10, so anyone can be a Ham!
What is the ARRL?
The ARRL is a group of 150,000 members that was founded in 1914. It stands for American Radio Relay League. Its nickname is Ham Radio. Other countries have different organizations for Ham Radio. ARRL is the main organization that makes manuals and books about Ham Radios and provides continuous support and training for everyone. The organization also has all kinds of special events for its members. There are also many clubs throughout the country that operate as a part of this, too.
Why Ham Radio?
Some people get their license because they like the idea of being able to talk to people across the country, around the globe, or even to astronauts in space. There are even contests called DX Tournaments where Hams try to make as many contacts as possible within a limited time or compete to see who can send Morse code the fastest. Some people like the convenience of having portable communication that can communicate to others around the globe. Other Hams like to build their own electronic equipment. Ham radios are often used during emergencies like a hurricane or other disaster.
Why do you need a license?
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) requires that you have a license to use the radios. There is also a group of serious operators who are experts and they step in to help in times of emergency to provide communication, whether it be an Earthquake in Italy or a hurricane in America. They allowed the Amateur Radio operators or Hams to get licenses also so that they could have extra people as backups to help out in emergencies and disasters. This idea has paid off for them. Because of the ARRL’s immediate actions, countless lives have been saved by skilled hobbyists who wanted to pitch in and help in many natural and manmade disasters. You need a license so you can help out in these disasters and know what to do.
Why do they call themselves hams?
The true reason is unknown. Some say it is because back when the radio was just invented, the telegraph was used. A bad operator on the telegraph was called a ham-fisted operator. Later when the radio was mainly used, because everyone used the same frequency, military generals called interfering operators “Hams”. Now they proudly refer to each other as “Hams” today.
How do Hams communicate in other ways?
These are some other ways Hams communicate besides talking. Some people use Morse code even though it is so old. Morse code is a code of short and long tones that represent letters. Packet, PSK, and Radio Teletype are some others.