I've been asked a couple of times "What's this ARISS you've been mentioning?" The short answer is that it is an acronym for Amateur Radio International Space Station.
What it means for the Amateur Radio community as a whole is that there is an Amateur Rado station orbiting the Earth on board the International Space Station.
It is a volunteer program which was set up to, among other things, inspire students worldwide to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering through Amateur Radio communications opportunities with the International Space Station crew.
Students can learn about life on board the ISS through the questions they ask and answers they receive from the space operator. ARISS provides opportunities for the school community (students, teachers, families and local residents) to become more aware of the substantial benefits of human spaceflight and the exploration and discoverys that occur on spaceflight journeys along with learning about technology and Amateur Radio.
You can subscribe to the European Mailing List on the ARISS Europe site so that you will get a couple of days notice of a planned contact. Please note I did say planned, sometimes the astronaut is unable to make the contact as he (or she!) has had something more important to do that may not have been forseen. Amateurs and other interested parties are invited to listen on the downlink frequency.
The school contacts are not the only contacts that the ISS operators make. Crew members make random contacts with earth-bound Amateurs as well. They make contacts during their breaks, pre-sleep time and before and after mealtime. Astronauts have contacted thousands of Amateurs around the world. Computer software allows the crew to operate the 2 meter packet station in unattended mode and Amateurs can make contacts with that when the crewmembers are working.
The frequencies for the ISS in Europe are:
If you wish to receive an ARISS QSL card, you must send your QSL cards or report including date, time in UTC, frequency and mode and include a large stamped self-addressed envelope with proper postage or sufficient IRCs included, envelopes without postage or IRCs will, evidently, not be honoured, to the following address (for Europe):
F1MOJ - Mr CANDEBAT Christophe,
ARISS Europe QSL Manager,
7 Rue Roger Bernard,
I hope that this has answered the questions and given you an insight into what is happening at about 380 km (236 miles) over our heads.