I was told there are thousands of registered ham radio amateurs in Malaysia alone. That's pretty impressive for a small country like Malaysia. That reflects the interest in ham communications in our country.
I have to admit that the first time I was exposed to ham radio was when I first joined the space programme. I’ve never even heard of it before this, and never knew why people were so interested in them until I personally had contact not only with other ham radio operators throughout the world but also with the astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS. It gives you a feeling of "bonding", as though you are right there in space.
My call sign is 9W2MUS and Faiz's call sign is 9W2FIZ. We use these call sign when we are in touch with other hams. The ISS uses its own call sign RSOISS for the Russians and NAISS for the Americans.
We had our ham radio training in Star City to familiarize ourselves with the equipment on the ISS. The space station has 4 antennas to provide communication to the ground and we use the VHF band. Currently the Russians are doing some experiments and to bring new equipment to the station to allow ham communication using the HF band too. If that works, it would allow us for better and broader coverage.
The problem with ham radios is that cosmonauts can only communicate when they are passing through the zone territory, which usually lasts for 10 minutes. Hence when I want to talk to ham amateurs in Malaysia, I have to wait until the space station is passing through Malaysia. Though the space station orbits the earth 16 times in a day, it passes on Malaysian territory twice daily at the 4th and 13th orbit. You can speak in any languages you desire but there are certain rules you must abide by – you are not allowed to talk anything on politics, religion, sex or doing any business or advertising. Other than that, we could chat on anything we desire from the weather to letting you know the menu of the day.
You can actually get the timings of the space station passing through your country from the internet. In fact, on a clear bright sky at night, you might be able to see the space station with your very own eyes. It looks like a bright star moving in a slow motion. It's really a fascinating view to see.
We were taught by Mr. Sangat Singh from ANGKASA at the planetarium and he was kind enough to teach us all the basic requirements. He was such a great teacher and I would like to thank him for obtaining my license.
We encourage Malaysians and schoolchildren to apply for a ham radio license. All you need is to sit for an exam which is not that difficult to pass. We are hoping to communicate with all of you when in space sharing all the experiences and adventures at the same time.
There's an organization called ARIS (amateur radio station ISS) consisting of 7 countries which are responsible for school communications all over the world. It would be a great honor to communicate with school kids and inspire them at the same time.
To all ham amateurs out there, hope to hear from you.