NASA Expedition 6 International Space Station Science Officer Don Pettit, KD5MDT, has suggested that NASA should consider setting up lunar bases in the future as a stepping stone to expand mankind’s exploration of the universe. The comment came in response to a student’s question during an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) school group contact.

Several students at Cowichan Secondary School in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada, had the opportunity to quiz Pettit about life in space via Amateur Radio on April 21. The QSO between VE7CVA and NA1SS was the last for members of the Expedition 6 crew of Pettit, Commander Ken Bowersox, KD5JBP, and Nikolai Budarin, RV3FB, who head back to Earth this weekend see;

“I hope the next step for manned space exploration will be to go away from the planet Earth for a while instead of just going in circles around the planet,” Pettit said. Setting up bases on the moon and learning how to operate at that distance from Earth, he said, would represent “a logical next step” in space exploration. “When you have your technology down, then you can go off to Mars and try doing a little exploration there,” he added.

Pettit remarked that his five months aboard the ISS have been “an amazing experience” and “really quite enjoyable.”

A couple of the Cowichan students wanted to know about sleeping in space. Pettit said he does dream in space. “When I initially started dreaming, I would dream about walking places,” he said. “Now, though, I starting to have dreams when I’m on space station and not on Earth and I’m flying everywhere in my dreams.” He explained to another youngster that the ISS crew members take their cues about when to sleep from their bodies, not from periods of light and dark. As the ISS orbits Earth, the sun “rises” and “sets” 16 times a day, he pointed out.

A dozen students in grades six through twelve took part in the contact as 150 members of the public and news media representatives looked on. The students were selected from schools throughout the region based upon a poster and essay competition. Members of the Cowichan Valley Amateur Radio Society assisted in setting up for the contact. Dale Jones, VE7DDK, was the control operator.

On April 16, Budarin spoke with youngsters in his home country of Russia during two ARISS contacts with students in Tver–located some 150 km from Moscow. According to Sergei Samburov, RV3DR–who heads Russia’s ARISS efforts–a selection of students from 53 schools were picked to ask their questions. The contacts–made on successive orbits–went well, according to Samburov. Between the contacts, he and cosmonaut Sergei Treschev, RZ3FU, answered students’ questions and talked about life in space.

ARISS school group contacts are off limits for the next few weeks due to the crew change. The Expedition 7 team of Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, RK3DUP, and veteran NASA astronaut Ed Lu, KC5WKJ, arrived aboard the ISS on April 28, and Lu will take over as NASA ISS Science Officer.

ARISS is an international project with participation by ARRL, NASA and AMSAT. For more information, visit the ARISS Web site