Air League Cadets into Orbit

Cadets of the Australian Air League’s South Australia Group recently had the opportunity to take the Air League’s motto, “Free from the Bonds of the Earth”, to heart when they spoke live to NASA Astronaut Warren Hoburg as he orbited above the Earth onboard the International Space. 

The link-up occurred on the evening of August 25th at the Australian Space Discovery Centre in Adelaide and was attended by cadets, officers, parents, supporters from the South Australia Group, and Australian Space Discovery Centre representatives. The Australian Space Discovery Centre opened in Adelaide in 2020 at the headquarters of the Australian Space Agency and aims to inspire the next generation of the space workforce with stories of innovation, curiosity, and technology. 

Using radio equipment provided by NASA, contact was made by members of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Group (ARISS) as the station passed over Europe at an altitude of 400km. Travelling at over 7km/s, the cadets had a short window of opportunity before the ISS went out of range. 

In preparation for the event, the cadets of South Australia Group took part in a competition where they each submitted questions that they would like to ask the astronauts. Following a selection process, 20 cadets were chosen to each ask a question of the astronauts. The questions posed by the cadets were interesting and varied, ranging from what you can see from space, what are the future plans for the ISS, and whether astronauts can eat ice cream in space! 

The cadets spoke to NASA astronaut Warren Hoburg, who had launched to the ISS as pilot of NASA’s SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the 2nd March 2023. With a degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley, Warren (“Woody” to his fellow astronauts) reported for duty with NASA in 2017 and, in his first mission, has already conducted two EVAs where he helped install new solar arrays to help power the ISS. 

In December 2020, Woody was also announced as one of the eighteen NASA astronauts selected as part of the Artemis Program for a lunar mission in 2024. 

Whilst the cadet spoke to Woody via radio, the event was live streamed on the Internet, allowing cadets in other states and members of the public to watch and listen, with amateur radio enthusiasts from as far away as Germany following along. 

The motto of the Australian Air League, A Vinculo Terrae – “Free from the Bonds of the Earth” was dreamt up in an age where pioneers like Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Bert Hinkler were still taking to the air in flimsy canvas and wire aircraft, but today it has certainly come true for these cadets. 

Our thanks go to NASA and astronaut Warren Hoburg, the Australian Space Agency for making the Australian Space Discovery Centre available to us, and to the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station group (ARISS) for making this event possible. 

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