astronaut holding a tablet

Can astronauts communicate with their families from the ISS?

Last Updated: April 4, 2022

Astronauts may spend quite a long time working on the International Space Station (ISS). Those expeditions usually last about 6 months so, it is important that astronauts can communicate with their families while they’re up in space.

Thankfully, the internet is available from the space station so astronauts can stay in touch with their loved ones. They use internet-enabled laptops to send emails, make phone calls and even watch movies. They have access to a myriad of apps such as FaceBook, WhatsApp, and more. They can also use social media channels to communicate with the public and keep up with the latest news and happenings.

How do astronauts contact their families from the ISS?

They have access to a computer that is equipped with a VoIP system. This allows them to make video calls to their loved ones or just about anyone on Earth. There are no restrictions as to when or for how long they can make calls. They simply need to be in contact with mission control at Johnson Space Center. The ground control centre will then direct them to the appropriate satellite for their call.

One of the few downsides is that astronauts can only initiate a call, their family members can’t just pick up their home phone and call them spontaneously. Another inconvenience is that their calls are relayed through satellite, due to the long-distance nature of the call, so if the ISS is out of range of a satellite, they won’t be able to make a call.

In the below video, you can see astronaut Rick Mastracchio speaking to his family during a video conference call from the ISS.

You can see how happy Rick is to be able to talk to his family. It’s clear that being able to communicate with them while in space makes a big difference in his morale.. This really shows the importance of keeping in touch with loved ones during long expeditions.

In the below video, Astronaut Randy Bresnik explains in great detail the main ways astronauts communicate with people on Earth.

If you are interested to see what a video conference with an astronaut looks like, you may catch one of the occasional live broadcasts on NASA TV.

Tom Urbain

Space exploration has been a fascinating subject for me since a very young age. As a child, astronauts were my heroes, so it was inevitable that a part of my website would be dedicated to astronauts and their space missions.

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