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Sacramento Girl Scouts gear up to talk to International Space Station. Here's how they'll do it

Jacqueline Pinedo, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

At the end of the project, the teams are rewarded with a time slot to talk with an astronaut for about 10 minutes as they whiz above or near the team’s location.

According to the program, ARISS gives the girls the chance to ask astronauts firsthand what it’s like to live and work in space. The scouts also can ask and learn about the latest experiments being conducted on the 25-year-old space habitat, which is jointly operated by NASA and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe.

Scouts prepare to chat with ISS next week

The team made final preparations Saturday by hooking up the last of the equipment — radio transceivers, microphones and more — to an antenna assembly perched atop the Heart of Central California Council building on Elvas Avenue.

“That whole assembly was completed probably three weeks ago when it was brought up there,“ said Jennifer Garland, a River City Amateur Radio member, as she pointed to the antenna.

“We’ve been doing regular checks, because of the wind and the weather to make sure that it stays up there right,” she said.

 

Thankfully, the antenna withstood the aggressive winds Sacramento experienced during last weekend’s storm. Now, the scouts are waiting to hear from NASA on which of the three astronauts will be available and when.

According to data provided by NASA, Sacramento will have several windows in which it is flying above Northern California this week. The first just after 6 a.m. on Tuesday will only be for about five minutes. The best opportunity, according to NASA’s “Spot the Station” website, will be around the same time Thursday when the capital region will have a seven-minute window of visibility. While most of the flybys will be at a shallow angle to the horizon, moving from south to the northeast, Thursday’s window will be the best chance to reach out at 75 degrees above the horizon.

“They’re flying by at over 17,000 miles an hour or almost five miles a second,” Garland said about the astronauts they will be communicating with. However, thanks to the power of shortwave radio communication, the window for communication will be a little longer, around 10 minutes.

Regardless of which of the seven astronauts currently on the ISS will be on the other end — among them Americans Jasmin Moghbeli, a Marine Corps test pilot who was deployed three times to Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot, and Loral O’Hara, who worked on deep-ocean science projects and robots before her selection to the NASA corps — the team is excited to make the connection.

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