Students, astronauts play the quiet game

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 6, 2001

[04/06/01] The silence was deafening.

Early Friday morning, about 60 parents, students, city officials, media and school representatives were waiting eagerly in Vicksburg High School’s library for the voices of the three astronauts aboard the International Space Station, but they heard nothing. Nine students were supposed to make contact with the Expedition Two crew members of the ISS at 4:18 a.m., but the effort was unsuccessful.

“Obviously, we were disappointed, but there was no possibility of failure on our end,” said Eddie Pettis, organizer of the event and president of Vicksburg Amateur Radio Club. “We had two back-up systems they (the astronauts) just weren’t there.”

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Since the crew’s space duties are foremost, Pettis said he knew the contact could fail. Pettis said he hoped to find out today from NASA when another contact will be scheduled.

“It could be next Wednesday,” Pettis said. “But that’s strictly a guess.”

If the next contact is successful, students here will be the first in Mississippi to actually talk with the orbiting crew.

Since it took nearly three weeks to set up the equipment, Pettis said the next contact may be made through a telebridge. Depending on where the ISS passes over the earth, amateur radio equipment will be used to transmit the conversation from a different part of the world to VHS.

In spite of his disappointment, Chris Withrow, a senior participating in the contact, said he understood. “I would rather the crew take care of the ISS, especially when it comes to their living conditions.”

Other students involved in the ARISS contact are sophomores Crystal Raner, Cameron Powers, Amanda Norris and William Hassell; juniors Jessica Pettis and Ebony Berry; and seniors Terrence Carter and Daniel Poole.

Even though the contact was delayed, Mayor Robert Walker declared today Space Awareness Day in Vicksburg.

“I’m convinced we’re going to have a successful contact,” Walker said. “This is a big day, and before long, we will re-establish contact.”