Astronauts on the International Space Station can now talk with people on Earth with video using simple transmitters. 'Ham TV' has been set up in ESA's Columbus laboratory and already used for talking with ground control. Amateur radio enthusiasts have been able to poll astronauts circling our planet using standard radio equipment since the Station was inaugurated in 2000. Radio signals easily reach the orbital outpost flying 350 km above us on sets readily available to radio enthusiasts. The new Ham TV adds a visual dimension, allowing an audience on the ground to see and hear the astronauts. The hardware, developed by Kayser Italia, was sent to the Station on Japan's space freighter in August last year and connected to an existing S-band antenna on Columbus. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins had the honour of being the first to commission the unit and broadcast over Ham TV. He had a video chat with three ground stations in Italy: Livorno, Casale Monferrato and Matera. The crew finished commissioning the set-up on 12 April for general use. More details at European Space Agency.
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