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ISS Expedition 24/25 Crew Back on Terra Firma

11/30/2010

After more than 160 days in space, ISS Expedition 25 Commander Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC -- along with Flight Engineers Shannon Walker, KD5DXB, and Fyodor Yurchikhin, RN3FI -- has returned to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS), landing in Kazakhstan on Friday, November 26. While on board the ISS, both Wheelock and Walker participated in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, and made 22 ISS-to-school and ISS-to-camp QSOs. In addition, Wheelock averaged about two dozen casual QSOs each week while on board the ISS.

During his last few weeks in space, Wheelock sent down a note to Johnson Space Center, asking to increase the number of ARISS contacts from one per week to two a week during his last month on the ISS. According to ARRL ARISS Program Manager Rosalie White, K1STO, Wheelock said he enjoyed the contacts with children, calling them “priceless.” White said that the ARISS Team quickly reviewed the list of schools on the ARISS waiting list and set up contacts for Wheelock.

In a 20 minute video taken aboard the ISS, Wheelock gave a tour of the ISS, even making a few ham radio contacts while passing over North America (the ham radio portion of the video begins at the 10:38 mark). In a conversation with Craig Fox, N6RSX, of Brea, California, Wheelock said he was most looking forward to “Bluebell ice cream and a two pound bag of peanut M&Ms” upon his return from space. After a few laughs, he amended that and said he was most looking forward to “fresh vegetables and fruits.”

Back in 2005, Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, logged more than 1750 contacts and received honorary Worked All States, Worked All Continents and DX Century Club awards from the ARRL on 2 meters for NA1SS. “It is unknown at this point how many total QSOs Doug has made -- I doubt his family has let him out of their sight to talk to anyone since he returned from the ISS,” White said. “But the ARISS Team knows he gave Bill a run for the money at beating his record QSO total. And Norm Fusaro, W3IZ -- who handles the QSLing for the US ARISS contacts at ARRL Headquarters -- ran out of NA1SS QSL cards!” Will it be enough to beat McArthur’s record?

NASA ISS Ham Radio Project Engineer Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO -- who is at Johnson Space Center -- concurred: “Doug has been making about 20-30 general contacts on the days he is on the air, and has probably topped the 500 QSO mark. His final total may turn out to be higher than our most active ragchewing astronaut, Bill McArthur.”

White said she has received many e-mails from hams who write about how much fun it was to get to talk with Wheelock on the ISS -- and those e-mails are still arriving: “It’s great fun to respond to these hams since their excitement shows through in their e-mails.” One such e-mail was from Erik Janssens, K5WW, of Bracketville, Texas: “The QSO with Doug Wheelock was totally unexpected, on my way back from a shopping trip! It was exhilarating!”

During their mission, the Expedition 24/25 crew members worked on more than 120 microgravity experiments in human research, biology and biotechnology, physical and materials sciences, and technology development, as well as Earth and space sciences. The astronauts also responded to an emergency shutdown of half of the station’s external cooling system and supported three unplanned spacewalks by Wheelock and Expedition 24 Flight Engineer Tracy Caldwell Dyson, KF5DBF, to replace the faulty pump module that caused the shutdown. Their efforts restored the station’s critical cooling system to full function.

A new trio of flight engineers -- NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, KC5ZTH, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and Paolo Nespoli, IZ0JPA, of the European Space Agency -- are scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan on December 15. They will dock with the ISS and join its crew on December 17.  --Thanks to NASA for some information



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