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With help of the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club, members of Los Padres Council Boy Scout Troop 105 spent part of Tuesday morning talking with Dr. Gregory Chamitoff, stationed aboard the international space station, which for a few minutes was speeding by in the space directly above them. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

Thanks to the power of amateur radio, Los Padres Council Boy Scout Troop 105 got to talk with some special people Tuesday morning, people who were whizzing by at thousands of miles per hour in space.

Gathered atop Broida Hall at UCSB on a hazy morning, Scouts of various kinds, their parents and enthusiastic onlookers watched as Troop 105 took its turn at the transceiver provided by the Santa Barbara Amateur Radio Club. Their mission? To talk with Dr. Gregory Chamitoff, stationed at the international space station that for only a few minutes was speeding by in the space directly above them.

“Can you tell us what weightlessness is like? Over,” one Scout asked.

“It’s not like you’re falling,” Chamitoff said. “It’s more like someone reached over to turn off a light switch, turned it off, but found out it was a gravity switch. It feels great.”

“My assistant Scoutmaster John Schlesselmann went to Cal Poly with Dr. Chamitoff,” Troop 105 Scoutmaster Glen Schiferl told Noozhawk. “They kept in touch and had planned for a while to do this.”

The contact proved invaluable, as it enabled the troop to bypass the typical five-year wait to be able to talk with NASA astronauts in orbit. The Scouts knew since April that they would have a tiny window of a huge opportunity and spent the months in between studying astronomy, astronauts and space. Like the true Scouts they are, the troop had to be prepared for the moment they would get to chat with the astronaut.

The boys asked Chamitoff about the food in space (“like camping food”), what sleeping is like (“very comfortable”) and what he does for fun (“play some guitar”). Chamitoff, a former Scout, is on a six-month tour of duty aboard the space station as a flight engineer and science officer.

The 10 minutes the troop had hoped for seemed too short: The station was well on its way over Canada before all of the Scouts were able to ask their questions.

Still, the experience was an eye opener for the boys, some of whom could be considering a career in space exploration.

“I’m hoping that maybe something like this might build the excitement in some of the kids who could be interested in helping out with space program down the road,” Schesselmann said.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at