"November alpha one sierra sierra, this is kilo two bravo sierra alpha, from the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve in West Virginia, over over." said satellite radio operator Mike Sprenger (W4UOO) at the K2BSA station set up at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree. Sprenger was transmitting beyond the Summit, beyond West Virginia, even beyond Earth itself. For the first time, on July 20, amateur radio contact was being attempted between the Summit and the International Space Station.
"When I came to the jamboree, I never thought that I would be able to talk to somebody in space," said Gavin Coyle of Nampa, Idaho.
With a motorized tracking antenna provided by Paul Trotter (AA4ZZ) satellite radio operators Sprenger (W4UOO), Paul Trotter (AA4ZZ) and Ron Wood (KØBRO) continued to attempt contact with astronaut Maj. Luca Parmitano (KF5KDP) of the Italian Air Force onboard the ISS. (Those numbers after everyone's names are their ham radio call signs, by the way.)
After several attempts, contact was achieved at precisely 11:34 a.m. as Parmitano's voice crackled through the static.
"November alpha one sierra sierra, good morning, and I am waiting for your questions," said Maj. Parmitano. Ten Scouts who had completed the Amateur Radio merit badge at the jamboree then asked questions provided by NASA.
"How are robots used on the space station?" asked Kyle Jones of Forest Grove, Ore. The next question came from Will Wyland of Redding, Conn., who asked, "How do you communicate with your family while you're aboard the space station?"
There were also Scouting-related questions including, "Were you in Scouting as a youth or as an adult leader?" as asked by Keenan Baird of Mesa, Ariz. To the surprise of the crowd, Maj. Parmitano was not active in Scouting as a youth, because he was too "busy with other activities."
After the nine-minute contact with the space station, Hometown News hosted a press conference.
"I put this experience as an out of this world experience," Tyler Pincus of Oro Valley, Ariz. said. "It was really amazing, and I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
Andrew Brazeau of Putnam Valley, N.Y. summed up the extraterrestrial chat: "This [was] a once in a lifetime experience, and I will probably never do something like this again."