Talk to Astronauts in Space With K2BSA

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“A randomly selected 10 Scouts who earn the Radio merit badge here at the jamboree will be able to talk to the International Space Station,” says Jim Wilson (K5ND), director of K2BSA, the amateur radio station of the Boy Scouts of America.

Those selected will chat with an astronaut, Major Luca Parmitano, during the roughly ten-minute overhead pass of the ISS. A public address system has been set up to allow Scouts, Venturers, leaders, and visitors to listen in on the exchange at the K2BSA exhibit at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree's Summit Gateway.

On Saturday, July 20, the ISS will pass over the Summit Bechtel Reserve. K2BSA will be tracking it with their antennas. The ISS is scheduled to pass overhead at precisely 11:34 a.m. Because the station is not in synchronous orbit, it passes at a different time each day.

"We will choose 10 names from a pool in order to pick who gets to talk to the ISS” via amateur says Wilson, with the selection on Thu., July 18 at 1:00 p.m. Amateur radio, otherwise known as ham radio, is a form of communication that allows licensed operators to transmit messages to any other operators on a particular frequency. For ham enthusiasts, K2BSA broadcasts on ten bands on 11 frequencies and has eight high frequency radios. In addition to those high frequency bands, K2BSA operates a repeater, WV8BSA, located at Rock Borrow on the telecommunications tower serving the Summit.

Only names of Scouts who earn the Radio merit badge at K2BSA will be pooled. Radio merit badge classes are four hours each, with 90 minutes of in-class lecture and discussion, 30 minutes actively talking on the radio, and another 90 minutes of lecture and discussion. Classes start hourly from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Everyone who completes the merit badge has an equal chance of being selected to speak to the ISS.

When speaking with astronaut Parmitano, of the Italian Air Force, the selected Scouts will ask questions provided by K2BSA.

“Scouts will need their parent or guardian’s permission before speaking with the ISS,” says Wilson.

Coincidentally, the Scouts speaking with Parmitano will do so on the same date as in 1969 Apollo 11, the first manned moon mission, occurred. A press conference will be held with a representative from NASA in conjunction with this event.

Beyond the merit badge and opportunity to talk to an astronaut, K2BSA will help Scouts and Venturers chat with others on the globe. It is possible to speak to people on every continent.

K2BSA is a great place to meet new friends around the globe — and orbiting above.

Editor's note: This story was updated on July 17 to add new information.