HAM It Up:  Amateur Radio

Target Audience
  • Students
Hosting Center(s)


  • Marshall Space Flight Center
Subject Category
  • Earth Science
  • Physical Science
Unit Correlation
  • Exploring NASA Missions
  • Exploring Engineering and Technology
Grade Level
  • K-04
  • 05-08
  • 09-12
Minimum Delivery Time
  • 030min(s)
Maximum Connection Time
  • 050min(s)

Event Focus


Communication is an essential component of a manned NASA mission. It is important for astronauts to stay in contact with Mission Control. One way astronauts keep in touch on the International Space Station is with amateur radio, or HAM radio. This method is also a means for the public to communicate with astronauts on board the Station.


How does HAM radio work?


How can educators and students participate in HAM radio connections?



You see it on television: NASA officials contact astronauts on the Space Station through radio hookups. There's another way to keep in touch with crewmembers, though, and anyone with a ham radio system can participate. And just for the record, the conversations don't start with "Breaker, breaker one-niner."


Amateur radio, also called ham radio, has become the fun way for average folks to communicate with Space Shuttle and Space Station astronauts. Anyone with a scanner can listen to the communications that take place between Earth and space, and if you have a transmitter, you can get in on the conversations.


While individuals can monitor Space Station transmissions from home, school groups can make it a class project and work closely with ham radio operators and NASA staff members to schedule a conversation with the astronauts. The ARISS project was started with that goal in mind: classes of students interacting directly with astronauts through ham radio linkups.


Instructional Objectives




Learners will share prior knowledge about amateur radio and its uses on Earth and within NASA missions with the NASA Education Specialist.


Learners will investigate the importance of communication and how the communication model works through pre-activities.


Learners will understand the function and importance of amateur radio on the International Space Station.


Learners will discover resources available for an ARISS radio downlink participation by exploring the ARISS website.


Learners will demonstrate their understanding of participating in an ARISS event by registering on the website provided in the videoconference event.

Sequence of Events

Pre-Conference Activities


The links below are previews of the pre-activities only. For the complete module and event information, please see the Complete Educator Guide link for each grade level.


Grade K-4

     "Give Me a Call" Activity:

      Students will explore how sound travels by conducting a range of experiments with paper cup telephones.

          K-4 HAM Radio Pre-Activity      

          K-4 HAM Radio Complete Educator Guide      



Grade 5-8

     "Speaking Radio-ese" Activity:

      Students will learn how to construct a structure using oral directions.

          5-8 HAM Radio Pre-Activity      

          5-8 HAM Radio Complete Educator Guide      



Grade 9-12

     "Radio Waves" Activity:

      Students will draw an electromagnetic spectrum and calculate frequency and wavelength.

          9-12 HAM Radio Pre-Activity     

          9-12 HAM Radio Complete Educator Guide     



Videoconference Activities

Join the Digital Learning Network as we explore how astronauts on the International Space Station communicate using amateur, or HAM, Radio. Learn how amateur radio works, its purpose on the International Space Station, and how educators and students can participate in radio downlink events with astronauts through ARISS.


Post-Conference Activities


The links below are previews of the post-event activities only. For the detailed activity information, click on each link below.


Grade K-4

     "Making Radio Waves" Activity:

      Students will make and test a simple radio-wave generator using ordinary household materials.

          K-4 HAM Radio Post Activity     


Grade 5-8

     "No Remote Control?" Activity:

      Students will demonstrate that radio waves cannot pass through certain materials.

          5-8 HAM Radio Post Activity     


Grade 9-12

     "Waves" Activity:

      Students will identify the components of a radio wave and create waves in different frequencies.

          9-12 HAM Radio Post Activity     


     National Science Education Standards (NSES)

          Unifying Concepts

          Content Standard A - Science as Inquiry

          Content Standard B - Physical Science

          Content Standard E - Science and Technology

          Content Standard G - History and Nature of Science


     National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)



          Problem Solving



     International Technology Education Association (ITEA)

          Standard 1 -Characteristics and Scope of Technology.

          Standard 17 - Information and Communcation Technologies

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Page Last Updated: November 5th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator