Earth to space: This is Schenectady speaking.
Teenage radio operators from the Electric City talked with astronauts aboard the International Space Station last month thanks to recent upgrades to the Broughton Memorial Radio Room, in the lower level of miSci on Nott Terrace Heights.
The communication was made between 2:50 and 3:01 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, using the Schenectady Museum Amateur Radio Association’s W2IR station that broadcasts from the room, said James MacMurray, a member of the radio group. High school students from miSci’s Teen Science Cafe took part.
Before the improvements, the antennas hadn’t been updated since the early 1900s and couldn’t pick up weak signals that are now within the radio room’s reach, MacMurray said.
“The radio we had would’ve done it, but it would’ve been more difficult. The antennas were in quite a disarray,” he said. “We actually had to replace some antennas and some equipment in order to be able to actually track the space station as it went overhead. It’s definitely some specialized equipment involved, as you can imagine.”
The upgrades were made with a $38,000 donation from the Broughton Charitable Foundation, which miSci officials announced during a rededication ceremony Saturday at the museum. They included improved lighting and soundproof paneling, the installation of interpretive signage telling the radio room’s history, the equipment enhancements and structural renovations.
“The most important part of the renovations you can’t see,” said miSci Executive Director Mac Sodduth, referring to the landscaping and grading work done outside the museum’s walls. “Since we opened this building in 1969, by now, after 50 years, the land had settled around us and the basement had begun to leak in this area, so we could not operate the radio equipment like we wanted to.”
Sodduth said the museum applied with NASA to contact the space station by radio and was approved after the upgrades were completed.
“It was really inspiring to see those kids with their questions and talking to the astronauts, which is going to be a memorable occasion for them,” he said.