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Hi all,

I have been reading these comments on the ARISS program and thought I would throw in my 2 cents as I am one of the ARISS mentors.

1.  First off, everyone needs to remember that ARISS is an international program.  We not only have NASA involved, we have the Canadians, the European Space Agency, and the Russians among others.  We have the help of not only AMSAT-NA but other AMSAT groups around the world.  The program is an outgrowth of SAREX and if I remember correctly, it was the ham world asking to have ham radio on board a shuttle; not the other way around.

2.  The ARISS program is truly a volunteer group.  I personally spend about 2 hours a day doing my ARISS mentor duties.  While many of you are playing on the satellites, most of us mentors are doing our mentoring thing.  While most of you have nice satellite stations at home, my nice satellite station is kept completely portable.  My equipment has been used for at least 6 ARISS contacts and since I am not rich enough to buy 2 of everything, it stays knocked down to be loaned out.

3.  If you have never directly participated in an ARISS contact, I would suggest that you volunteer if you hear of someone needing help.  Or better, yet talk to your school and suggest that they participate.  It is actually pretty neat to have the parents and the kids on cloud nine for a long time afterwards.  When I did my daughter's SAREX contact in 1993, the entire school curriculum was changed for the entire year to have more space and science in every one of the subjects.  The school thought it was that important; just the same as many schools think it is important today.  Plan on you and your team spending a few hundred total man-hours to do the 10 minute contact.

4.  What is the direct benefit to ham radio and/or AMSAT?  Hard to answer, but I have had several kids come up to me after they talked to the ISS and tell me that they were switching their plans and going into science, engineering or math; something they were actually going away from.  I know of several of those kids who have followed through and are now in college in engineering.  Don't forget, but one day, these kids (some who may stay a non-ham) may be your boss, the president of the country, or the head of the FCC and they will remember that one day that perhaps changed their life in a small way.  If we get a few new hams (I know of several teachers who got their license after an ARISS contact) out of the ARISS program that is great.  If we don't, I know at least we got our foot in the door.

5.  Someone suggested that the schools could just get on and talk to the crew with the NASA TDRS system.  That is a lot easier said than done.  The ARISS program doesn't cost NASA very much for each ARISS contact but I have to believe it can be very expensive to use the TDRS system for every school.  We mentors do all of the up front work and help the ISS planners get the schools in the time-line.

6.  Sometimes the ARISS program does things that help someone that we didn't even know we had helped.  After I did the ARISS contact from the Adler Planetarium, I found out that one of the kids had been really sick (basically terminal) and they were hoping that the contact would take place before he passed away.  We were able to get the contact done for him (and the others of course) and I hope he stays with us for a long time.  If not, then I hope we helped this 5 year old live a little better.

7.  Personally, I can almost care about the digital satellites but I do support those who do.  I am not sure why the ARISS program should be thought of any differently.


Charlie Sufana AJ9N
One of the ARISS mentors
Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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