The International Space Station Phones Home (and We Call Back)


“I can confirm your phone line is now certified for space.”

That’s what Richard Hollingham of the BBC heard before speaking with NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko on the International Space Station. NASA’s Audio Control Room in Houston called the journalist up at his home, 30 miles north of London, and connected him to the ISS traveling in space above Colombia and Brazil.

Hollingham writes that the 10 minute interview was preceded by detailed protocol instructions for communication, and that he could see the pair of astronauts (“they bob up and down between the white walls of the Japanese Kibo module”), but they could only hear him. Kelly and Kornienko are four months into a year-long mission designed, in part, to investigate the effects of long term spaceflight.

The talk covers everything from exercise, to the relationship between Kelly and Kornienko (after all, it’s close quarters up there), their 400 planned experiments, and what it’s like to dream in space.

Kelly and Kornienko, via NASA

Hollingham isn’t the only earthbound human to chat with the ISS in recent days. Adrian Lane, a 52-year-old radio enthusiast, was able to call the astronauts from his garden after learning their path would intersect with his home. Turns out it’s not that difficult or uncommon for astronauts on the ISS to speak with ham radios around the world. Anyone with a ham radio can chat it up with the crew during their breaks, as the radio on board is set to a public frequency.

Business Insider reports that during his 50 second conversation, Lane asked “what the stars looked like from up there,” and the astronaut in communication replied: “with no atmosphere up here the stars are really bright.”

You too can keep in communication with the ISS through NASA or astronaut Kelly, whose updates are regularly completely breathtaking. Or you can always get yourself a ham radio.