Stuffed, Orbiting Spacesuit to Communicate with Earth

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The radio transmissions include a pre-recorded greeting in English, French, Japanese, Russian, German, and Spanish. Commemorative certificates will be awarded to the students who correctly decipher them.

After a 30 second pause, SuitSat-1 will relay its telemetry: temperature, battery power, and mission elapsed time. The transmission will end with a commemorative slow-scan television image.

Slow-scan television images are a mode of communication used by ham radio operators to send pictures. The images are about the same quality as the ones people send with cellular telephones, Bauer says.

As the satellite passes over a region, SuitSat-1's transmission can be picked up by anybone below with an antenna and a radio receiver equipped to tune to 145.990 MHz FM, according to NASA officials.

The transmissions are expected to last for several days before the batteries die. The suit's orbit will decay over the next six months, and the suit will eventually burn up as it falls into Earth's atmosphere, Bauer says.

Student Involvement

For years Bauer and his colleagues at NASA have collaborated with an international working group called Amateur Radio on the International Space Station to connect schoolchildren and astronauts.

(Get ideas for classroom activities based on satellite data from National Geographic's Eye in the Sky Web site.)

The space station is equipped with a ham radio, and astronauts routinely communicate with school groups when the station passes overhead.

SuitSat-1 continues this tradition: Project organizers solicited involvement of school groups around the world.

The spacesuit will include a CD containing pictures, artwork, poems, and signatures from the students. Another copy of the CD is on the space station.

Students bearing ham radio "handles" can also report hearing messages to the SuitSat Web site and leave messages. Several pre-launch comments from participants hint at the excitement.

For example, KF4MOU writes, "Go SuitSat! I will be listening!"

N7WEJ writes, "Good Luck!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And from qp2trz, "Radios ready at Toronto Transit Commission Communications and Huronia Centennial Elementary School. God Speed!"

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