Newport, RI – Newport’s Pell Elementary School students are making history!  On Tuesday, October 2nd, K-4th graders will talk directly with astronaut “Ricky” Arnold aboard the International Space Station (ISS) live from their school gymnasium at 35 Dexter Street, Newport, RI.

Introductory remarks start at 1:15 PM, with the student-to astronaut question and answer portion starting promptly at 1:45 PM. This first ISS contact with a Rhode Island public school is happening in connection with the United Nations annual World Space Week.

Pell students submitted scores of potential questions. The 20 most unique questions were chosen. As the space station orbits at 17,500 miles an hour,  200 miles above Earth, students will speak directly with former science and math teacher, astronaut Richard “Ricky” Arnold, who has been in orbit since March.

This contact is made possible by the global Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program that champions STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) learning opportunities for students around the world. Pell School’s contact will use an amateur radio ground station located in Aartselaar, Belgium operated by volunteer Mr. Jan Poppeliers, callsign ON4ISS.

ARISS is a joint venture by NASA, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), and the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) to facilitate communication via Amateur Radio between astronauts aboard the ISS and schools and communities around the world. ARISS programs excite and motivate students in a one-of-a-kind presentation and exchange. This Pell event will be the third Rhode Island school to make contact with the ISS. It also underscores the importance of delivering integrated and substantive STEM/STEAM learning (to include the arts, design, literacy, history, and humanities), at every grade level, throughout all RI classrooms.

ARISS program goals are:

  • Inspiring an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects and in STEM careers among young people.
  • Providing an educational opportunity for students, teachers, and the general public for learning about wireless technology and radio science through Amateur Radio.
  • Providing an educational opportunity for students, teachers, and the general public for learning about space exploration, space technologies and satellite communications.

Amateur, or “Ham,” Radio, is a popular service and hobby in which federally licensed participants operate communications equipment. There are over 700,000 licensed amateurs and nearly 2,300 ARRL-affiliated Amateur Radio clubs in the United States, including 11 in Rhode Island. Hams talk to each other across town, around the world, and even into space without the need for normal communications infrastructure, such as cell phone networks or the Internet. Amateur Radio is regularly used during natural disasters to help local emergency and served agencies (such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and state and local governments) respond when normal communications methods are disrupted. The Amateur Radio community is a great source of electronics experimentation, public service, and fun.

Rhode Island “Space Chat #3” is organized by STEAM volunteer and advocate Mike Cullen, and made possible with support from: The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the Amateur Radio Aboard the International Space Station (ARISS) project, the Copernicus STEAM Learning Lab initiative,  the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, IBM Foundation, Rhode Island STEAM Academy, Newport County Radio Club, newportFILM, FunFlicks,  and the Newport Public Education Foundation.

The event will take place in the Pell gymnasium with 350 eager third and fourth-grade students. Pell’s remaining 600 Pell students will be watching from the cafeteria and classrooms.   Four Rogers High School students have volunteered to “man” the video cameras. At 1:15 PM, the public can watch history happen by tuning into the live stream via

What’sUpNewp will broadcast a live simulcast of the historic event on What’sUpNewp Radio Edition on AM 1540 WADK Newport between 1 pm to 2 pm on Tuesday. Listeners can hear the live simulcast via 1540 AM,, or on TuneIn.